Young Authors celebrate

By RICHARD LUKEN
Register Reporter

Register/Richard Luken
Micaiah Larney, left, reads a story she wrote while Abigail Taylor listens Saturday as part of the Allen County Young Authors Celebration at Iola High School. Of the 985 stories submitted by Allen County elementary and middle school students, 115 were selected to be read as part of the celebration.

Brad Sneed’s wish was simple: “I hope the kids get as much out of this weekend as I do.”
Sneed was part of the 10th annual Allen County Young Authors Celebration.
Sneed, a children’s book illustrator from Prairie Village, was joined by Joseph Bruchac, who has won several awards for his books targeting children and young authors.
The pair visited schools in Iola, Humboldt and Moran Friday before visiting with 118 students Saturday morning at Iola High School. Students were se-lected to attend Saturday’s workshops based on stories they had submitted for the 2009 celebration. A record 985 stories were submitted, co-organizer Debra Greenwall said.

BRUCHAC has written more than 70 books for children and young adults, many of which deal with his Native American heritage. He’s also a celebrated writing instructor, poet and storyteller renowned for his efforts to promote literature among various cultures.
His subject matter is diverse. Bruchac has written about everything from Navajo Code Talkers in World War II to an upcoming sequel to his suspense novel “Skeleton Man.”
Regardless of whether the story he’s working on is fiction or historically accurate literature, Bruchac strives to ensure all his stories stress the importance of understanding others.
Children, after all, are part of what Bruchac describes as a “circle of life.”
“One of the things you’ll notice is that no single part of the circle is closer than the other,” he said. “Everyone is equal, and everyone is equally important.”
Bruchac’s love of history and storytelling was developed as a youngster after learning about his Abenaki and Slovac ancestors.
Telling stories, he explained, is a way of passing on knowledge from one generation to another.
Bruchac lauded the local organizers of the Young Authors celebration.
“The local philanthropy is outstanding,” he said. “It’s marvelous to see the number of people who have a stake in the community. There’s nothing more important than to encourage young people.”

SNEED WAS born and raised in Kansas and has illustrated books, magazines and other literature for 20 years. Picture books are his favorite, he noted.
“When you’re done with a magazine you throw it away,” he said. “Books, however, are passed on.”
Sneed developed his love of art at an early age, on his bedroom floor. He spoke about his parents’ support, from supplying him with “how-to-draw” books to plenty of art supplies.
Sneed won a handful of awards for his drawings as a youth before enrolling in the University of Kansas to study illustration, which led directly to his first illustrated book, “Grandpa’s Song.”
Sneed said his creative process begins with a simple manuscript, “which is just words.”
He then sketches story boards to determine how the picture story should flow before incorporating text.
The entire process can be lengthy — as much as nine months for some picture books — he said.
“I’m influenced first and foremost by the manuscript,” he said. “I want to make sure the tone and style of the writing matches what I’m putting in the pictures.”
Still, the most important tool young illustrators should have, he said, is their imagination.

GREENWALL lauded the community support of the Young Authors program.
“We couldn’t have done anything like this without the work of the students, without the support of the teachers and parents, and without our local judges and Young Authors Committee,” she said. “And It obviously would never have happened without the wonderful support of the Sleeper Family Trust.”
Since the program’s inception, Allen County students have written 8,558 stories for the Young Authors program.
The Sleeper Family Trust has sponsored all 10 Young Author celebrations.