Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Writers find inspiration in so many places: nature, relationships, memories, even other writers.
Reading a stunning novel, a heart-breaking memoir or a biting political essay can make my fingers itch for the keyboard.
A group of young writers recently gave me itchy fingers.I had the pleasure of judging the Rowan County Homeschool Association’s creative writing contest this year. While I tried to help each writer with a little constructive criticism, I suspect these talented authors and poets actually helped me even more.
I felt truly inspired.
I read the youngest writers first. Their delightful poems and descriptive short stories brought a smile to my face over and over again.
Butterflies, horses, a creek, a scarecrow ó these are the things that inspire children to take pencil to paper. Or launch a new Word document.
Jeremiah Young described his ascension from a helpless 1-year-old to a self-sufficient 6-year-old in a precious poem entitled “Getting Big.”
I loved the example of failure he gave at each age. Who hasn’t witnessed the frustration of a 2-year-old trying to put on a shoe, or a 4-year-old attempting to open a heavy door?This 6-year-old has a very good memory, an important attribute for an aspiring writer.
The middle school entries were just as wonderful, full of imagination and imagery. I especially loved Katherine Paul’s poetic metaphor, “The Sun is Dancing.”
I suggested she might try giving the Sun a female persona, just to see how that would change things. But I later learned that Katherine’s poem is actually the first verse to an entire song in which the Moon is the girl who comes out to dance with the Sun. Such creativity!
Amanda Burris won the high school poetry contest with a charming and sophisticated entry entitled “Me.” Was I this self-aware as a teenager? I doubt it.
Amanda also took top honors for high school prose with a fantasy short story called “Beyond the Faerie Veil” that has the character development and setting to become a novella for young adults. Impressive.
And D.J. Jinks’s high school prose entry, “Guardians Lost,” read like a Hollywood screenplay, complete with thrilling battle scenes, family betrayal and morphing creatures like those in the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy.
How refreshing to encounter writers at the dawn of their craft. I could feel their enthusiasm and see their promise.
I remember winning my first creative writing contest in fourth grade with a short story titled, “Leprechauns Galore.” What a thrill!
A reporter from the Sioux Falls Argus Leader came to school to judge our entries and have lunch with us. (This event was also memorable because Brad Thatcher bit into his taco and encountered a large metal staple. Like any good reporter, our creative writing judge dropped her fork and grabbed her notebook, to the chagrin of the lunch ladies.)
Did “Leprechauns Galore” help me become a writer? Did watching a real live reporter interview Brad Thatcher lead me to a career in journalism?
Will some of the young people in the Homeschool Association’s creative writing contest become poets, journalists, novelists and essayists?
I hope so.
n Winning poems, page 8E
The Sun is Dancing
The Sun
Is dancing with the moon
As he fills up his stage
With light.
The Stars in heaven stop
To see
the Sun
Waltzing ’round the stage
With glee.
He shines
All day and never says
A word,
Rays on every bug
And bird.
But when
The stars come out and night
Grows strong,
He dances
With the Moon and plays
His song.
ó Katherine Paul, age 11
Getting Big
When I was one,
I couldn’t have any fun.
When I was two,
I couldn’t put on my shoe.
When I was three,
I couldn’t climb a tree.
When I was four,
I couldn’t open the door.
When I was five,
I couldn’t dive.
Now that I am six,
I can do it all.
óJeremiah Young
I can read and write,
And take care of Paul.
“What is your heritage?” I’ve heard people ask.
Then I’ll think for a second and just have to laugh.
There are so many pieces to my nationality,
That together make up the puzzle of me.
Firstly, I’m German, that makes me stubborn.
My spirit is trong and my determination, tougher.
I’m also part English, and that’s quote a shocker,
Since I hate hot tea and I’m not very proper.
I’m also part Indian, and I respect tradition.
I love their free spirit and steady drum rhythms.
I’ve a wee bit of Scotland that flows in my veins.
I adore rolling hills and open, green plains.
And lastly, I’m Irish, witty and smart.
Ireland has stamped her seal in my heart.
I love music and dancing and stories of home.
Tales of that land I could drink all day long.
My ancestors were from many lands, you see,
But they’re all united in the land of the free.
And no matter how different their cultures may be,
They all become one and together, made me.
óAmanda Burris