Young writers celebrated at inaugural Pretzel Park event

As a writing professor and author, Elizabeth Mosier says younger children and teenagers seem to already know what she has to teach her college students. Mosier believes younger people still view writing as a form of play, and summon their imagination more readily than their college-aged counterparts, who tend to think in a more analytical sense.

Mosier recently did her part to nurture that playful aspect of writing along with other local authors on Saturday during the first “Young Writers Take the Park” event at Pretzel Park in Manayunk. Spiral Bookcase owner Ann Tetreault coordinated the event with author Beth Kephart, and it featured the literature and poetry readings from local middle and high school students.  Authors Elizabeth Mosier, Beth Kephart, A.S. King, April Lindner and Susan Campbell Bartoletti were also on hand to lend their inisghts into writing and sign books, and musical performances from the bands Melrose Q and Evan’s Orphanage added some zest to the afternoon.

The “Young Writers Take the Park” organizers reached out to teachers from local schools to encourage their students to submit stories for a writing contest, with the winners being included in the next issue of “Philadelphia Stories” magazine. Kephart and Mosier also instructed a writing workshop for the winners, who were announced on Friday: Celeste Flahaven, Olivia McCloskey and Maria Dulin of Villa Maria Academy, Davis O’Leary and Lauren Harris of Tredyffrin/Easton Middle School and Calamity Rose Jung-Allen of Penn Alexander.

Author Beth Kephart says the young adult fiction genre remains popular in print, especially with the massively popular Harry Potter, Twilight and Hunger Games series.

“Many adult woman are reading young adult novels because they like that the stories move quicker,” says Kephart, who teaches a memoir-writing course at the University of Pennsylvania and has written several young adult novels. Her most recent novel about a kidnapped teenage girl, “You Are My Only”, is published by HarperCollins Publishers – a company that reaps 25 percent of its profit from young adult fiction, according to a May 2011 Chicago Tribune article.

Kephart says writing for young adults can be a challenge because they strive for a sense of authenticity in the material they read.

13-year-old writer Davis O’Leary says he writes about the interactions between humans and society in his poetry. His poem “Reflection” was selected to be printed in Philadelphia Voices. O’Leary says a lot of his writing is inspired by the changes he sees in him and his peers at Tredyffrin/Easton Middle School.“It”s almost ridiculous how people talk and act to each other and how you change from elementary school,” O’Leary says. “It’s like trying to create a real perception that’s not really true, but not really fake. You almost become a new person.”12-year-old Penn Alexander student Calamity Rose Jung-Allen was the youngest writer to be selected for the writing contest. She heard about the contest the day before the deadline for submissions, so she stayed up all night writing a five-stanza poem called “Nightbird” about someone who encounters a pigeon in the night.She says her meeting with authors Kephart and Mosier was almost surreal, having met the people behind the artfully-crafted words she read in their books. “I’ve always imagined authors to be these mythical beings but they’re really normal people,” she says.

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