No royalties, but a willing publisher for young writers SOUTHEAST -- Sykesville * Eldersburg * Gamber

February 11, 1993|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Staff Writer

Eldersburg Elementary students don't have to worry about selling their stories to an indifferent publisher. If they write it, their school will publish it.

Literary fame is just a few steps from their classrooms at the Eldersburg Elementary Publishing Center, housed in a portable unit outside the first grade.

"We want to encourage the writing process and show students what a real author would do," said Mary Katsafanas, first-grade teacher and faculty coordinator for Parents Advocating Literacy.

The center, the first of its kind in Carroll County, opened Tuesday. It had been in the plans for about four months, said Ms. Katsafanas.

Students take a final corrected copy of their manuscripts to the center, where they meet with a parent "editor" and map out pages.

"We work one-on-one with the children," said Alison Hennessy, parent coordinator at the center. "They have a lot of decisions to make."

The student reads the story with the editor.

"This isn't scary, is it?" said Cathie Myers as she opened "Battle Beast" by 7-year-old Travis Skinner. "I don't want nightmares."

The young authors have the option of writing a dedication, a brief autobiography and illustrating their stories.

Travis decided to dedicate his beastly tale to his friend, Erik, who is also a character in the book.

"What should we write about you?" asked Ms. Myers. "Looks to me like you are creative and hard-working."

Travis smiled proudly and agreed with his editor's assessment. The pair turned the pages together.

"You could draw neat pictures with this story," said Ms. Myers.

At another table, Ms. Hennessy read "The Big Race" with its second-grade author, Tommy Davis.

"I can't wait to see what happens in this race," she said to the child.

Before Travis left, he selected a book cover from a case of card board covers decorated with wallpaper. He picked a pattern that he said resembled the magic potion bottles in his story.

"I'm going to show my book to my mom when it's done," said Travis. "She likes scary stories, too."

Tommy found a cover of car and truck pictures perfect for his racing story. He dedicated his story to his father, Archie Davis, who "likes all kinds of cars and racing."

Parent volunteers type the stories on pages that will be sewn into the covers. Within a week or two, the children will get bound copies.

"You will probably keep this book forever," said Ms. Myers. "You can look back on it years from now."

Ms. Katsafanas said her goal this year is to have each of the school's more than 600 students write one book.

"It's already February, so that's a big order," she said. "We want to focus on the fifth grade especially. Maybe next year, we'll try for two per student."

The younger children are writing shorter stories, but she expects "longer and more elaborate" volumes from the older children.

"Children can get very sophisticated, depending on where they are in their writing," she said.

Ms. Hennessy said 30 parent volunteers are helping with the center, but she is looking for more typists and bookbinders.

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