HIS Writes: The History, Value and Process

Hokkaido International School is an international boarding school that not only values the outdoors, the arts, and service, but also literacy. Please join us in supporting a reading and writing life, beginning with HIS Writes.

HIS Writes was created in 2021 to pair with its companion HIS Reads (begun in 2015). It is a short story competition open to entries from all students in grade 6 and above. Created as a way to provide an avenue to bring student writing beyond the classroom, HIS Writes encourages student creativity through narrative writing, which many have argued stands at the heart of all writing. Our entire life, in fact, is a story that we are writing as we go. The better we plan and organize, the much easier the winding path of life is to follow.

In this short story competition, students may choose to create a story collaboratively or solo, with the contest open to any story that meets the following criteria:

  1. Conveys the school’s annual literacy theme (the same theme used in HIS Reads)

  2. Fits the length requirements of 2,000 to 8,000 words

  3. Submitted via the school’s creative writing course or during the open submission periods (2 per year)

Annual Theme 2024-2025


"Live life in crescendo" were Stephen R. Covey's words and his approach to life. Just like that, we strive to seek ways to constantly adjust our own way of living to improve ourselves so that we might contribute to the world in a way that makes a positive difference. In the same way, stories are centered on a dramatic code (John Truby) that is based on the idea that each human being wants to become a better version of themselves. Characters and authors who demonstrate this serve as models for readers as they seek to find ways to live life in a morally upstanding way. 

Why we value HIS Writes

Human beings thrive on creation. A study published in International Journal of Education & Literacy Studies reveals that creative writing can improve students' writing abilities, language proficiency, and communication skills. It also positively impacts their overall academic performance. Equally important is social and emotional development. The Association for Middle Level Education (AMLE) emphasizes that creative writing and storytelling support the social and emotional development of middle school students. Engaging in storytelling activities allows them to explore their identities, understand others' perspectives, and build meaningful connections with peers and teachers. At Hokkaido International School we value literacy and HIS Writes works to directly support not only the writing modality but all of the other benefits that come with creative writing.

Open to Grades 6-12

Students enrolled in the specific Creative Writing classes (MS Publications & HS Creative Writing) will have direct potential access into this writing competition. 

Middle School Publications is a year-long course where students will work to promote the school through the website, social media, and the yearbook, and craft creative pieces, some of which may find their way into HIS Writes. HS Creative Writing is a year-long course for students who love to read and write and are interested in creating and recreating stories. Focusing on the narrative genre, students will build foundational storytelling knowledge and skills through a guided study of John Truby’s The Anatomy of Story. Beyond the guiding text, students will read various forms of model narratives to further develop their palate for good storytelling. Putting their growing skills into action, students will work collaboratively, in synergy, to produce a narrative. Following their collaborative piece, they will produce a second story, either collaboratively or solo. Both of these narratives are reviewed by the classroom teacher with the possibility of being long-listed and later short-listed for HIS Writes. 

In addition to the school-designated classes, any secondary student may submit a piece that meets the contest requirements during the two open submission windows: January & March.

The 2024 Champions: Jiwoo Kim's "Yeouya (여우야)"
HIS Reads 2022 Finals
The 2023 Champions: "All the Small Wishes"
HIS Reads 2022 Finals
The 2023 Top Three HIS Writes Finalists
HIS Reads 2022 Finals
The Engraved Plaques for Literacy including "Pen Pal"
HIS Reads 2022 Finals

Historic Finalists by Year

Historic HIS Writes Themes by Year

— 2023-2024 — PIVOT

"Man was made for conflict, not for rest," Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote. "In action is his power; not in his goals but in his transitions man is great." Ongoing action through tension is at the heart of good storytelling and it is the key ingredient for future growth in our own lives. Choosing the right time to pivot and the right focus can make all the difference. 

— 2022-2023 — REDISCOVERY

To discover is to find out something for the first time. To rediscover is to remember what was lost or forgotten. Moments of great turmoil often lead to great loss, stripping us of the identity we once held dear. But as we battle through that turmoil, we reemerge in the place we started with fresh eyes to rediscover where we came from and who we used to be.

The Historic HIS Writes Judges Biographies

Ms. Laine Cunningham 


Laine Cunningham loves traveling and writing and is ecstatic that the act of writing takes her to new places in the world. Recently she visited Rwanda to research the novel she’s been working on and spent time in Cuba writing parts of the draft manuscript. She also travels through time and into the minds of others when she reads books. She’s also the senior editor of Sunspot Literary Journal, an international magazine of literature and the arts. 


Mr. Hiroki Finn Hoshino


Hiro Finn Hoshino is a keen reader and writer of fiction. With a background in contemporary performing arts, he is always looking for fresh ways to express a creative idea. His favorite genres include horror, mystery, and fantasy, but will generally pick up anything with a thrilling story. 

His short stories have been published in Australia and the USA. His surrealist horror short 'The Visitor' won an Honorable Mention at the Writer's Digest 90th Annual Writing Competition and will be published in an upcoming anthology with Brigids Gate Press. He is currently working on a children's novella while researching Ainu mythology.


Mr. Eric Johnston


Eric Johnston is the Senior National Correspondent for The Japan Times. Based in Sapporo, he covers national politics and Hokkaido news. Among his favorite fictional works are: Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, Evelyn Waugh’s Scoop, James Lee Burke’s Flags on the Bayou, Yoko Ogawa`s The Memory Police, and Edith Shiffert’s poetry book The Kyoto Years.



Ms. Leza Lowitz


Leza Lowitz, M.A., is an award-winning author of over twenty books in multiple genres, including the groundbreaking Yoga Poems: Lines to Unfold By (Winner of the PEN/Josephine Miles Poetry Award) and Yoga Heart: Lines on the Six Perfections. She has written several novels for YA readers, including the APALA Award-winning Jet Black & The Ninja Wind (Charles E. Tuttle Publishers), and Jet Black & The Winds of Darkness (Excalibur), books I and II in the Kuroi Clan Trilogy, which have been optioned for film. Her most recent book is a YA novel in verse, Up from the Sea (Penguin/Random House). She has taught writing at San Francisco State University and the University of Tokyo, and has been an invited speaker at literary and yoga festivals in the U.S., Japan, Bali, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, and the UAE. She has received numerous awards for her writing, including NEA, NEH, and California Arts Council grants. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, the Huffington Post, Shambhala Sun, Best Buddhist Writing, Art in America, Yoga Journal, and many more. Lowitz is also an internationally renowned yoga and mindfulness instructor. She lived in Japan for over 20 years, where she ran a yoga studio and taught thousands of students, including Fortune 500 company executives and Hollywood A-Listers. She is a certified Mindfulness Meditation Teacher through the Awareness Training Institute and the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California at Berkeley. 

Mr. Neil Maclean


Before teaching, Neil was a journalist and editor. Based in Brussels, he used to write about politics, trade and business. Doing lots of trips around Europe for work, he branched out into writing about culture and travel — eventually coming to Japan to write for Rough Guides.

He wishes all the students the best of luck in the contest, looks forward to reading their entries and passes on the best writing advice he ever got — Never lie… Never be boring… and Never be late.

Mr. Beau Miller


Before joining the State Department, Beau worked in magazine publishing as a writer and editor.  Through writing assignments in Beijing and Tokyo he met and profiled people doing interesting things – guerilla street artists, cocktail craftsmen, Japan’s “last ninja,” pro snowboarder Travis Rice, ten-time NBA All-Star Carmelo Anthony.  He also dabbled in freelance writing for travel and trade publications, taking assignments on subjects as varied as upscale patissiers and radio-frequency wireless technology.  He has loved reading since he can remember, dating back at least to a reading incentive program in second grade that rewarded every five books read with free fast food.  He proudly chewed through a record number of books and french fries that year.

Ms. Karryn Miller 


Karryn Miller

Karryn is an avid reader and can't pass a day without picking up her kindle. She has contributed to several books including Tokyo: The Complete Residents’ Guide (Explorer Publishing), To Japan With Love: A Travel Guide for the Connoisseur (ThingsAsian Press), as well as Sacred Places of a Lifetime and Food Journeys of a Lifetime (both from National Geographic). She co-authored a children's book Mother Wild: A Book of Mothers Dreams that was created with moms in mind. Her passion is travel writing and she has written for Conde Nast Traveler, Travel & Leisure and CNN, among other publications.

Dr. Raluca Nagy


Raluca is an anthropologist and writer. She has written ever since she can remember, mainly because it has helped her understand the world. Most of the texts related to her work as an anthropologist are in English. When it comes to literature, she writes in Romanian, her native language. She published two novels, each telling the story of a woman, probably to balance the fact that the most famous stories of women have been written by men. Her best, most heart-warming encounters as a writer have been with young readers of her books; therefore, she feels happy and excited to have the opportunity to read your stories and have a glimpse of your understanding of the world.

Mr. Jared Pangier


Jared Pangier’s love of writing falls only behind reading, God, snowboarding, and his family. At HIS, he teaches AP Language, AP Literature, Creative Writing, AP Capstone, and Publications, providing him with a lot of time to read student writing. He is the creator of the school’s secondary literacy contests: HIS Reads (10th year) and HIS Writes (3rd year). He actively pursues his aspirations to become a published novelist, coming extremely close in 2022. Currently, he is working on his second novel-length manuscript: a story about a wicked but beloved father and his son’s struggle to not follow so closely in his father’s footsteps. Jared has a couple of travel-writing pieces published through Niseko’s PowderLife magazine.

Mr. Tim Schlosser 


Not just our head of school but also a passionate reader and writer. Tim Schlosser was an English and Creative writing major at Seattle University. His career has been in education, but he has kept writing on the side over the years. He is currently finishing a draft of a Young Adult Sci-Fi novel that he would like to publish someday, in one form or another. He loves supporting young writers and creative writing in general, and he feels honored to read your work—each new story brought into the world makes it a little bit richer.


Ms. Ann Van Den Borne 


Ann has always loved reading and is amazed by all the different worlds and views she has seen and felt through books. She started reading in English during her teenage years to learn the language but has recently switched back to reading Dutch to taste a little bit of the Netherlands when not able to travel home. She is very much looking forward to reading HIS-made stories.



Mr. John Newton Webb


John Newton Webb is the author of 4 plays and has worked as an actor, director and storyteller. His poems in both English and Japanese are widely published, as are his translations into English of Japanese poems. He is currently writing a novel for children.

He has lived in Hokkaido since 2010 and is the pastor of Hiragishi Izumi Christ Church. He is married with 2 children.

You can read some of John's work and occasional essays on poetry at johnnewtonwebb.blogspot.com.


HIS Literacy Celebrations by Year