Editor Harvests The News

August 18, 1991|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Staff writer

ELDERSBURG — A young editor pores over pages strewn across her kitchen table, while her Cable Drive neighbors eagerly await the latest Harvest Farm News.

"Mr. Ernie is thinking about giving his kids away," writes Felicia S. Epstein, preparing copy for her third edition. Three crying toddlers and their distraught dad's comment made the weekly news.

The first issue of the one-woman production hit doorsteps of 10 homes two weeks ago. Its reporter, cartoonist, photographer, editor and publisher is a 10-year-old about to enter the fifth grade at Carrolltowne Elementary.

The job was Felicia's response to the end-of-summer doldrums.

"I just got bored one day, took out a note pad and went around the neighborhood," she said. "Then, I started writing thepaper."

Although Adrienne Epstein didn't want her daughter knocking on doors and bothering neighbors with interviews, she approved theidea.

"If people were already outside, I didn't think they would mind talking with Felicia," she said.

To Adrienne's surprise, the neighbors were far from bothered. They welcomed Felicia's questions and liked the product.

"People a block away are asking when they can get a paper," she said.

After canvassing the neighborhood, gathering her information, Felicia pounds out her stories by hand.

She includes Robert H.'s trip to the Westminster duck pond and "101 Dalmatians" among the reports on her neighbors' latest remodeling projects, gardens, vacations and recreation plans.

Sole reporter status has afforded her several exclusives, including "Mr. Ernie and Mr. Mike are sneaking out Thursday for an exciting game of golf."

She has agood handle on who is doing what among the younger set, too.

The twin boys who just moved in, Christy's pool, Eric's mountain bike were some of the headliners of the first issue, along with "Nolan has learned how to catch a Frisbee and Erin's puppies just opened their eyes."

She welcomes reader input and follows through on suggestions, such as the inclusion of a coloring page. She gives out her home phone, too, asking everyone to call with tips.

In her columns, she also notes upcoming birthdays and social events, and will include photosand postcards. Shots of her family barbecue accompanied one article.

The "newsiest" neighborhood household becomes "Family of the Week" on Harvest Farm News' back page. The Conaways, who related the "most true stories" to the roving reporter, were in that spotlight for the first issue, followed by the Hollasches.

"I think the whole ideais really terrific and shows great imagination," said Diane Hollasch, who lives next door. "Felicia really knows what is going on."

Felicia designs a cover, draws cartoons and adds a word puzzle, before the paper goes to print -- on the copier in her father's office.

Joseph H. Epstein supplies the paper and returns home with several copies of each page for his daughter to collate and staple.

With her product put together, the neighborhood paper girl delivers the news. She also mails copies to her family in New York.

"The family went wild about the project and made us promise to send papers," said Adrienne.

Once September and school roll around, Felicia plans to continue publishing. It might mean working weekends, but she doesn't mind.

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