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Children find creative outlet

Writing Rally taps young authors’ imaginations

Now he can call himself a writer.

Nine-year-old Justin Beaudry wrote and illustrated his first book, “That Halloween,” at Whitworth University’s annual Writing Rally on Saturday.

Like the hundreds of other children and accompanying family members, the Holmes Elementary School student was inspired by children’s author David Shannon, a Spokane native who traveled from Los Angeles to jump-start the popular event.

Justin wrote about a fat pig named Lisa who snuck downstairs after the boy had been out trick-or-treating.

“Lisa started to eat my Sweet Tarts,” Justin’s adventure began.

The story is only partially fiction. The fourth-grader’s grandmother, Tammy Raider, used to have a pet pig named Lisa, Justin said.

“Lisa had a sweet tooth,” said Raider, who accompanied Justin to campus, watching and making suggestions as he wrote and illustrated his story in a two-hour writing session.

“It’s the first time he’s come. He’s always writing little stories. I’d love him to go to a writers camp,” Raider said.

At the end of the writing session in Weyerhaeuser Hall, the children gathered in a circle to share their stories and drawings. Some read their entire books; others were too shy and simply held up a page. They all put their thumbprints on “The Author’s Wall of Fame.”

The children laughed as Baleesha Bailey, a 9-year-old Holmes Elementary fourth-grader, read “The Stinky Toilet,” about a green monster that lived in the toilet of her aunt’s house until her aunt flushed it away.

Ryan Hawkins started with a storyboard and used colored ink stamps to illustrate his tale about a family snowboarding trip where he runs into a tree and ends up in the circus.

The Pasadena Park Elementary School fourth-grader read his entire story to the other children.

“At first, he didn’t want to come,” said his mother, Jennifer Hawkins.

“You were right that it would be fun,” Ryan said to her with a smile. “I hate being wrong.”

The Whitworth Writing Rally has been held on the first Saturday in November for 25 years. A total 615 kids from preschool to sixth grade, all accompanied by a relative or other caretaker, registered this year, said coordinator Lisa Laurier. The rally began in 1984 when several primary school teachers approached Whitworth’s Les Francis to organize a writing conference, according to the rally’s Web site.

In addition to Whitworth, sponsors include the Northeast Elementary School Principals Association of Washington and the Spokane Area Council of the International Reading Association.

Since the mid-1990s, PEMCO insurance has been a corporate sponsor. Since 2002, Clark Pacific Real Estate has donated $2,000 each year to help low-income children attend.

It is the only writing workshop in the country where an author serves as a “springboard” for kids writing a book, Laurier said.

“Kids are so creative, and they don’t usually get to work with their parents,” Laurier said.

Reach Karen Dorn Steele at (509) 459-5462 or karend@spokesman.com.


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