EDWARDS — Eagle County kids write volumes for school every year. But turning the burden of an assignment into a creative outlet is the goal of the second annual Children’s Writing Contest, sponsored by The Bookworm of Edwards. Born last year out of a growing interest by curious kids who attended author events in the store, the competition allows Vail Valley children to explore writing, develop their skills and see their work published in book form.
‘A SENSE OF ACCOMPLISHMENT’
“As a young writer, there is no greater sense of accomplishment than to see others commend your work,” said Nicole Magistro, the owner of The Bookworm and a former writer. “It gives me chills to remember how proud the children were last year to read their stories in front of an audience and sign autographs for their friends and family. It’s just amazing.”
This year, the contest kicks off on Wednesday with a writing workshop led by Lindsay Eland, a Colorado resident and the author of two middle grade novels, “Scones and Sensibility” and “A Summer of Sundays.”
The workshop is meant to give young wordsmiths the confidence to hone their craft. Franny Gustafson, the children’s department manager at The Bookworm, said she is excited to see the work Eland does with the children.
“She is so great at inspiring our young writers and answering their questions,” Gustafson said.
Being a role model for the contestants and all young authors is one of Eland’s favorite jobs, she said, because of her conviction that writing is a helpful and healthy mental exercise.
“Writing is important at any age,” she said. “But it’s especially important for kids and young adults.”
She explained that writing is a way for kids to safely explore the events, experiences and emotions that they encounter every day as well as express themselves, their thoughts and their opinions with the world.
“I think no matter what path you choose in life, writing is a skill you will use again and again,” she said. “Cultivating the love of writing and creativity at a young age helps kids become better readers and critical thinkers.”
The judges will certainly require the contestants to be critical thinkers to win the competition. They are looking for exceptional potential for writing and an understanding of the basics of shaping a story. Eland is looking for pieces with a good balance of all those things that make up a good story: character, voice, dialogue, plot and setting.
While the quality of writing is clearly outlined, the topics are unlimited and unrestricted.
“Last year, we received stories about friendships, summer camp, dragons and the end of the world,” Gustafson said. “Kids and teens are free to write about anything they’d like.”
HOW TO ENTER THE CONTEST
For children interested in entering the contest, they can start by joining Eland, Gustafson and The Bookworm staff at the workshop on Wednesday for help developing ideas for stories or refining an existing tale. While all stories (no essays) need to be unpublished works, children can bring drafts of stories or start from scratch; they can even enter a story they’ve worked on in school.
As the April 25 deadline nears, The Bookworm staff often gets questions from parents and kids about editing. In response, the store will host a Write-a-Thon on April 11 so kids can receive help and extended time to develop their stories. A four-hour word marathon of sorts, the evening will feature writing prompts, instruction and of course, food. The money raised by kids for their writing will benefit the scholarship fund for Book Trails, an outdoor adventure summer camp with a literacy focus.
Winners of the contest will be announced on May 30 to coincide with the release date for the newest edition of the book “Ungoverned Children” and inspired by the famous penman, Mark Twain.
Leigh Horton is the journalism intern at The Bookworm of Edwards and a senior at the Colorado School of Mines.