Event encourages young kids to write

Wiles Elementary fifth-grader Alexandra Book is a young creative writer who has already had her work published in a journal and will be attending an upcoming author's conference.

Rob C. Witzel / The Gainesville Sun
Published: Saturday, March 1, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, February 28, 2003 at 10:55 p.m.
Ten-year-old Alexandra Book is publishing her poetry for the first time.
Last month, she was accepted into the "Anthology of Poems by Young Americans," an unexpected surprise since her teacher, Susan Siorek, entered the poem secretly.
"Alexandra is a precocious writer," says Siorek, who teaches Alexandra's fifth-grade gifted class at Wiles Elementary on Tower Road. "She is not up there in the clouds."
Today, Alexandra and more than 100 other Alachua County students will see their names, poems and stories printed in an anthology at the Young Authors Conference, scheduled to run from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the downtown library.
The conference is designed to showcase literary pieces of fourth- and fifth-graders of local public, private and charter schools, as well as to bring in local authors to critique and advise students on their writing.
Its purpose is to encourage young children to see the value of writing, says Emily Schwartz, secretary of the Alachua County Reading Council, an organization that promotes literacy.
The Reading Council planned and co-sponsored today's conference along with Friends of the Library, a volunteer organization that raises money for special programs for kids and adults.
Months ago, teachers across Alachua County were invited to select promising students from their classrooms who would submit poetry and stories for the conference.
"It's not a contest," Schwartz emphasizes. "Some teachers choose a child who needs encouragement."
Alexandra's poem about a penguin, "Feets," earned her a invitation for a second year in a row.
Siorek says she read a piece from each student in her class three times before deciding which were the best.
Though competition is always an "element," Siorek advises students who want to improve their writing simply to read and borrow styles from other authors.
"It's not stealing if they put their own words throughout the story," Siorek says.
Gainesville's Meredith Pierce, an author of fantasy books for the young adult audience, will get today's conference started with a presentation about how to become a writer.
Then, students split into six groups, each one headed by a local author, who will help them proofread and edit their pieces, give every student the opportunity to read their pieces out aloud and have them critiqued.
Meanwhile, parents of participants are invited to listen to Dr. Linda Lamme, UF education professor, talk about the importance of encouraging children to write.
Finally, students reunite into one group for a question and answer session allowing them to ask any author a question. "Kids like that," Schwartz says. "They think that's a lot of fun."
The conference closes with refreshments, free T-shirts for participants that they can have autographed by the authors, and an anthology of the participants' poems and stories, available to parents and students for $10.
In addition, Goerings will be there selling books written by the adult authors.
Alexandra, meantime, says she is looking forward to meeting other authors because they "tell you good ideas."
Last year she met David Lubar, author of the "Psychozone" series of children's books. "His stories are weird, but funny," Alexandra says.
For Alexandra, writing runs in the family. Her grandfather, Ed Book, was editor of several North Carolina newspapers. But Alexandra says her inspiration for writing are "animals."
She's quick to grab a piece when ideas pop up in her head, and fiction is her style of choice.
"Every time I write, it's like a whole other world," Alexandra says.

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