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Youth Writing Festivals To Welcome 2,200
April 6, 2005

Calvin College will welcome 2,200 young authors to its campus April 21-23 for the 2005 Youth Writing Festivals, including 450 students from the Potter's House Christian School and Buchanan Elementary School thanks to a State of Michigan Department of Education grant.

Those students will represent a wide variety of area schools - public, private, parochial and home schools - but they will be united by one thing: their love of reading and writing.

That's the reason for the Festivals says Calvin English professor Gary Schmidt.

"I think they (the children) like the fact that their writing is taken seriously," says Schmidt, himself the author of an award-winning children's book. "The Festivals are both a celebration of their own writing and a development of their skills. We talk a lot about vocation. What is the writer doing? What difference does the writer make out in the world?"

Such questions are part of a literacy project that partnered Calvin with Potter's House and Buchanan thanks to a $179,000 Teacher Quality Grant from the state.

For the past several months Calvin specialists in reading, writing and creative drama have been using their skills to support the Four Blocks literacy model - the chosen method of teaching reading and writing in the Grand Rapids Public Schools - and Schmidt and colleague Nancy Hull have been working closely with teachers from both schools.

"It's been a real pleasure," says Hull, "to work with them, but also to see their passion - and their compassion - for their classrooms. Some of them have limited budgets; they don't begin to have what many suburban schools have, and yet they keep going. Many of them spend their own money in their classrooms."

This is the 28th year for Calvin's Youth Writing Festivals which includes the Young Authors Festival, the Middle School Writers Workshop and the High School Writers Workshop.

The middle school and high school authors will learn the writer's craft in workshops featuring local journalists, poets, children's authors and educators. And the best of the middle and high school writing in six genres will be recognized with Golden Pen awards.

Several notable writers will speak at the event.

Philippa Boyens, Oscar-winning screenwriter for Lord of the Rings and for the upcoming feature King Kong, is scheduled to speak to the high school crowd. Laurie Keller, the Muskegon-based author of the picture books Scrambled States and Arnie the Doughnut, will address young authors from grades one through three. And Elisa Carbone, whose books include Stealing Freedom, an American Library Association (ALA ) Best Book for Young Adults, and Storm Warriors, an ALA Notable Book, will speak to fourth and fifth grades and middle schoolers.

A conversation with all of the featured authors - free and open to the public - will be held at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, April 22 at the Bunker Interpretive Center on Calvin's campus.