The Bookworm launches annual Children’s Writing Contest, Jan. 25 | VailDaily.com

The Bookworm launches annual Children’s Writing Contest, Jan. 25

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EDWARDS — Children and young adults have a unique perspective of the world. They see things and form ideas that get lost with age, finding magic and mystery in the ordinary and speaking profoundly about subjects that adults don't often consider. When this unique stage of life is transferred from pen to paper, beauty floods the page.

This creativity is what The Bookworm of Edwards hopes to encourage with the fifth annual Children's Writing Contest. The contest is open to Eagle County kids in grades three through 12. Professional authors and educators judge the short-story submissions, and the winners and runners-up in each age group are published together in a book called "Ungoverned Children."

Today, novelist Heather Sappenfield, author of "The View from Who I Was" and "Life at the Speed of Us," will host this year's contest launch, a creative writing event for kids with prompts to inspire their stories. Having been a judge for a couple of years now, she is excited to be there when the magic happens.

"In both years that I've judged this contest I've been amazed and heartened by the quality of the stories I've read," Sappenfield said. "They are rich, not only in content, but also in the variety of experiences that arise from our community. I'm also impressed with the overall strength of the writers' English skills; this must reflect the quality teaching going on in our schools."

Creating Balance

The purpose of launching the writing contest with a time for creative writing is to start the sparks of imagination for the kids who participate. Most kids do not have a story idea when they sign up for the contest, but the launch often leads to future stories.

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"So much of children's experience with writing is academic," Sappenfield said. "That's not a bad thing, but to have writing so skewed that direction tends to create a sense of drudgery about writing that then leaks into all the writing they do. Learning to write stories, to write characters, to structure plots, to create settings, to utilize imagery — all of these elements balance the work of writing academically."

Often, writing narrative will spark a love of writing in children who haven't liked it before, Sappenfield said.

"Also, these skills in creative writing transfer directly into academic writing, allowing children to use imagery, for example, to enhance an expository or persuasive essay," she said. "And then there's the ACT and SAT — those gateways to college — that they will take eventually. These tests are now based in craft, in why the writer employed a technique and how it affects the excerpt. Writing creative narrative helps tremendously with that."

Nicole Magistro, owner of The Bookworm, has been involved in the contest from the very first idea. She has seen its growth and the transformative effect it has on children who enter and become published authors.

"By far, the children's writing contest and the publication of students' stories into a book is the thing I'm most proud of," Magistro said. "This year has already started off as one I will remember, as we celebrate our 20th year anniversary. But to celebrate five years of extending beyond the walls of the bookstore and becoming a place that fosters writers beginning at age 8 is something I wish someone could have done for me as a child. It is a tremendous privilege to offer this to our community."

The Vail Public Library will host weekly writing workshops, held Feb. 2, 9 and 23 at 3:30 p.m., to continue to encourage creativity and to give the participants specific time to work on their stories with access to professional advice.

The contest will be open for submissions from today until Thursday, March 2, at 5 p.m., with an awards ceremony on Wednesday, April 12. For more information, visit http://www.bookwormofedwards.com.

If you go …

What: Fifth-annual Children’s Writing Contest launch.

When: 6 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 25.

Where: The Bookworm of Edwards, 295 Main St., Riverwalk at Edwards.

Cost: $5, includes snacks.

More information: Call 970-926-7323, or visit http://www.bookwormofedwards.com.