Author helps motivate young writers
Author Melissa Williams knows what it's like to see her writing appreciated.
Now she and Read3Zero Literacy Foundation co-founder Billy Ozuna are helping 45 young, first-time authors experience their own moments in the sun.
Their Texas-based nonprofit foundation held a reception Nov. 13 for writers and illustrators, grades three through eight, who contributed to the foundation's first anthology, "I Write" Short Stories by Kids for Kids.
Each of the writers is a winner of the foundation's 2010 I Write Short-Story Contest.
This day also marked the book's initial release to the public.
"The purpose of this event is to completely pat these kids on the back; I want them to experience what we experience as authors." said Williams, a Cy-Fair resident and author of the Iggy Iguana chapter book series for children.
Her latest book, Turtle Town, will be released this March.
The student writers read from their short stories and signed copies of the anthology. The illustrators were invited to sign copies, too, and presented their original artwork.
Ozuna is a writer and motivational speaker from the Fort Worth area.
Williams and Ozuna held the reception at the School at St. George Place because Williams had gotten to know some of the teachers there through visits to promote her books.
Plus, more School at St. George Place students are represented in the anthology than students from any other school.
Williams, who also is a public speaker and founder of LongTale Publishing, has been writing stories since she was 8.
She started the Iggy the Iguana series while she was completing her master's degree in professional counseling.
The inspiration for a youth literacy foundation started with Ozuna and evolved into its current form with input from Williams, who met Ozuna at a conference.
Their primary goal is to inspire creativity and a passion for learning among children.
The foundation's name promotes the idea of reading 30 minutes a day.
"With reading your imagination continually grows," Williams said. "We wanted to encourage that."
Read3Zero started accepted entries for its short story competition last winter.
Many of the youngest participants wrote about animals. Some of the older students wrote historical fiction.
"Some wrote fantasy stories, over the top, using their imaginations to the extreme," Williams said.
The authors were required to keep their writing positive, and in a number of cases, they had to do re-writes, just like any other author would.
"We showed them we were treating them seriously," Williams said.
Other foundation events, including creative writing and song writing workshops, have high standards, too.
But they do away some of the rules students normally experience in school.
Williams gave a student struggling with writer's block at a recent session permission to write a comic book. From there, the story flowed.
"We said, this is where you get to be creative," Williams said.
"We're going to have to do extra things to reach that extra-special kid.
"Maybe they have an artistic channel that hasn't been reached."
Williams said she and Ozuna want to expand their reach to parents, too, and to help them teach their children to be better learners.
Ultimately, Williams said, they want to promote a community culture that nurtures young learners.
"We're really trying to create a movement, I would say."
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