February 2, 2013

Facing the blank page


---- — PLATTSBURGH — Budding writers and illustrators in kindergarten through grade three can learn the storybook craft at “PBS Kids Go! Writers Contest Class.” 

Participants will meet Mondays and Wednesdays during the month of February at the North Country Cultural Center for the Arts in Plattsburgh.

Mountain Lake PBS has sponsored the contest for 19 years at the station level.

“It’s also a national program,” said Jane Owens, director of education and outreach. 

“Basically, it asks kindergartners through grade-three students to write a story with illustrations. They submit it to the station, and we choose winners from every grade level. We have a party here at the station, which we air.”

A children’s book author is usually on hand as a role model.

“They can see what they become or how their stories might evolve,” Owens said. “The idea is to support the development of children’s writing skills. And one of the reasons PBS does this, many of our programs are literacy focused. We try to make our programs on air also connect to the community. This year, we are partners with the North Country Cultural Center for the Arts. This is the first time we’ve done this. Before, we always have partnerships with schools and homeschoolers where they submit stories.” 

The writing class ensures students will have a finished product to submit to the contest.

“The stories have to be at the station by March 8. It started in the beginning of January. Every student who enters gets a certificate. The prize winners, they get books, T-shirts and a bag full of prizes. The winner at each grade level is entered at the national contest,” Owens said.

Mountain Lake PBS has collected more than 2,000 stories since it started the contest.

“It varies, but usually we have 200 or so a year,” Owens said.

The class will be instructed by Amanda Kaufman, a SUNY Plattsburgh graduate student majoring in childhood education.

“I’m helping them create a story that they come up with by themselves creatively, and I help them create a finished product that they can submit,” Kaufman said.

The sessions start at 3:30 p.m.

“Each class is divided and (will focus) on different areas of the process of writing. Because the ages are varied, I have to be able to tailor the writing environment for all those ages,” she said.

The first class will be about learning contest rules for each grade.

“We’re going to be as creative as they want to be,” Kaufman said.

She’s introducing the children to a what-if story.

“You take an idea: What if only cats lived in the city, what would it be like? They can take it from their lives. It could be fiction or nonfiction,” she said.

The children will create drafts and final products, which include five illustrations.

“We have different ways they can do their illustrations,” Kaufman said. “The kids can pretty much do anything. They can create collages; take photographs; (work with) watercolor, crayon or computers. I will have different forms they can work with to best describe their stories.”

Email Robin Caudell:

IF YOU GO WHAT: "PBS Kids Go! Writers Contest Class." WHEN: 3:30 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays, Feb. 4, 6, 11, 13, 25 and 27. WHERE: North Country Cultural Center for the Arts, 23 Brinkerhoff St., Plattsburgh. COST: $65 for nonmembers and $60 for members PHONE: Call 563-1604 to pre-register. WEBSITE: or