EDWARDS — “Ungoverned Children,” the Bookworm of Edwards’ first independent publication, is a collection of stories written by local children interested in developing their storytelling and writing abilities. Included stories were chosen from submissions to the Bookworm’s annual writing contest. The contest was judged by children’s author Lindsay Eland, Sandy Fuller and former Battle Mountain High School educator Suzanne Foster.
The stories were chosen based on flow and enjoyment. According to Eland, “it is extremely hard to judge writing. Books and stories are very personal.”
Deciding what should be included in an anthology is an enormous challenge.
“When I looked at the stories, I looked for continuity in plot and characters; originality; appropriate use of dialogue and honestly, whether or not I enjoyed reading the story,” Foster said.
The submissions came from children of all ages — third graders through seniors — with each student submitting a highly original piece of work about camp, dystopias, or fantasy lands.
“The stories were all refreshingly unique,” said Franny Gustafson, children’s department manager at the Bookworm. “The great thing about this book is that there’s something for everyone.”
And this mentality extends not only to the book’s readers, but also to the young authors whose stories represent the lives of local children. Maddi Dougherty, one of the contributing authors in the ninth through 12th grade group, said that her story, “Safe House,” allowed her “to channel my love for my sister into a more fantastical setting, and I enjoyed every minute of it.”
Safe House “is about a girl and her younger sister running from mutant lizards that have overtaken the world,” Dougherty said.
Writing the story gave her an opportunity to take components of literature that she likes to read about and create her own world while including her life experience to inspire other young writers.
“I also wanted to make a point of the ways literature and other forms of art can be just as important, fun, and rewarding as the sports most kids my age love,” she said.
Not only are these young authors working to show their peers that reading and writing is fun and important, but the judges and employees at the Bookworm of Edwards are also working toward the same goal. Fuller observed that allowing kids to believe that they are capable of writing a story is the first step toward developing their talent. Extensive reading is also an important component of inspiring stories and influencing writing styles.
And there is more young talent in the Vail Valley than people realize. Gustafson only recognized the wealth of untapped ability after a teen author event that the Bookworm hosted. Attendees were so full of questions about their own writing — how to finish a story, stylistic questions, among others — that The Bookworm decided to host its own writing contest. This now annual event will provide material for a yearly publication of children’s writing.
This year’s release will kick off with a book release party on Thursday, when several authors will be available to sign “Ungoverned Children,” and celebrate the publication with their friends and family.
“The kids and parents are so excited! It’s amazing to see your own story in print, and we’ve seen so many kids smiling and jumping for joy,” Gustafson said. “I can’t wait for everyone to come together again for the release party. It will truly be a wonderful celebration.”
‘Read, read, then read some more’
The primary goal of this competition and publication is to “encourage kids to keep writing. Writing is so challenging, thrilling and rewarding. We hope to nurture this passion for writing by providing an annual writing workshop and contest,” Gustafson said.
Everyone is welcome to craft new stories and submit them to next year’s competition for a chance to publish.
Because this project is an attempt to encourage rather than discourage, it is also a celebration for those students whose stories were not included in the anthology as their names will appear in the back of the book.
For those students interested in writing, Eland suggests, “number one, read, read, and then read some more. Two, write, write, and then write some more. Three, never ever, under any circumstance, give up.”
The Bookworm of Edwards organizes and hosts regular writing workshops for young authors, so go to those and get as much help as possible. Submit entries to contests and see where they go.
“The most important part of getting kids involved in writing is READING. I tell this to every person — young, old, and in-between — that writers are first and foremost readers,” Eland said.
Leigh Bennett Horton is an intern at The Bookworm of Edwards and a student at the Colorado School of Mines. Email comments about this story to firstname.lastname@example.org.