D181 celebration of writing is quite the party

When the District 181 Foundation sets out to celebrate writing, it doesn't cut corners.

I was fortunate to be able to play a very small role in the foundation's Young Writers Night at Hinsdale Middle School last week, hosting one of the nine workshops offered. I enjoy my job and enjoy talking about writing, so those two 30-minute sessions were fun for me - and I hope for the students and parents who attended.

The highlight of the night, though, was listening to the keynote speaker, youth author Keir Graff. He's written several middle-grade adventure novels (I'm most excited to read "The Other Felix") and is about to launch "Minerva Keen's Detective Book," the first in a new series he's co-authoring with best-selling writer James Patterson.

Graff traced his interest in writing back to elementary school, where a teacher required him not only to write a story but to turn it into an actual book, with a cover and illustrations. It reminded me of my first book, "The Adventures of Pierre Poodle," about a trip my dog took in space. I created illustrations for my story and somehow attached the pages to a cardboard cover.

Unlike Graff, I did not go on to create several more such books as a student. I did write on an Apple II computer in grad school, though - and might have been one of few people in audience to have recognized it in his slide show.

Besides his great sense of humor, the thing I loved most about Graff was how complimentary he was to the students who contributed to "On Our Minds," the 2023 hardbound Young Writers Book the foundation published. He shared how excited he would have been to be part of such a book and even invited students who contributed to it to sign his copy.

The book is, as he indicated, impressive. It includes the work of 192 writers and artists. Written works range from a six-line poem called "Elephants" to an almost two-page piece titled "Ivy Bardon" (and that's only an excerpt). The anthology includes short stories, poems, essay, descriptive paragraphs, pictures and more.

Among the topics covered are many things you would expect to see - a persuasive essay on why fifth-graders should be allowed to have phones in school, advice for middle schoolers at lunch time (avoid the tacos and chicken pie!) and many, many pieces about dogs.

The list of unexpected topics has entries such as the Revolutionary War, a twist on fairy tales called "What if the Wolf Cried Boy?" and an origin story called "Where I'm From."

One of my favorite entries so far - and I've only just made a dent in the book - is the "Recipe for Happiness." And the best title I think should go to "The No Good, Devious, Trouble-Making Eraser." Who doesn't want to read that?

Like these authors, my love of writing started when I was a kid. Seeing my poems published in our local newspaper, The Homewood-Flossmoor Star, was such a thrill for me. Like Graff, I can only imagine how exciting it would have been to see my work in a hard-cover book.

I hope the student contributors will continue to write and draw and experience the wonderful feeling that comes when someone else connects with your work. Congratulations to all on a job well done.

- Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean. Readers can email her at [email protected].

Author Bio

Author photo

Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean