Young writers hone skills at group just for them

WELLSBORO – They troop in after a long day at school, manuscripts in hand, and exude a confidence and excitement that is contagious.

Twice a month, Kasey Cox and Kevin Coolidge make room for budding authors at their bookstore, From My Shelf Books and Gifts, on Main Street.

Cox, who has a background in education, said the young people recently wanted to form a writers’ group and she was happy to accommodate them.

“We have an adult writers’ group that meets once a month, so when the kids showed an interest, we decided to do it,” she said. “They meet every second and fourth Wednesday from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m.”

It is geared toward 9- to 14-year-olds, but some exceptions are made, as one of the writers involved in the group is 17.

The group of about 14 young people are urged to write in any genre they feel comfortable.

The classes begin with a writing prompt from Cox, which allows the students to write freely for about half an hour. They then can share what they have written.

Some come prepared with works in progress. The students are being taught how to gently critique another’s work and examine their own for setting, dialogue, plot and point-of-view.

For Jonathan Wetzel, 11, helping to create the young writers’ group was a doorway to expanding his own love of writing.

“I really enjoyed reading since I was 6 and I wanted to make my own book,” said Wetzel, who has a manuscript he is perfecting and hopes to publish.

He credits being an avid reader from a young age for fostering an interest in writing. Wetzel prefers fiction and hopes one day to make writing his profession.

Josie Hill, 17, believes a writer should “break out of their comfort zone and write new things.”

Her interest is in fantasy and her favorite authors are Erin Hunter and Matthew Sands.

Hill, who also enjoys doing illustrations, likes to create a character, then create a story for that character.

“Creativity, an open mind and free time” are what is needed to be a successful writer, she said.

“I like to write because I am very wild, random and creative,” said Elaine Dickinson, 11. “I like to write so I can express all those things on paper.”

Her favorite genres are mystery, historical nonfiction and poetry. She likes reading Meg Cabot, Jamie Kelly and Jeff Kinney.

Dickinson plans to pursue writing as a hobby and thinks a successful writer should possess creativity and a “wild and random side.”

The classes offer these young writers a time and place to stretch their imaginations. Cox encourages the group to feel positive about their work and gives them suggestions for developing their writing skills.

Sitting in on the group’s meetings and listening to them read from their “works in progress” is inspiring. Perhaps one day their published works could be for sale at From My Shelf Books and Gifts.