"I am a talented author and illustrator," recited Moffat County School District students triumphantly on Monday morning.
By next month some elementary students will have the evidence to prove it.
Drawing from the expertise of visiting author Vickie Leigh Krudwig, students are diligently spending class-time this week learning how to write and illustrate a story that will soon be published.
Named the Young Authors and Illustrators workshop, Krudwig spent Monday morning prompting students into a warm-up exercise of using their five senses to write about gummy worms.
Students touched the candy's gritty texture, sniffed it for its sweet smell, observed its varying colors, tasted the gooey treat and finally listened carefully to each other as they munched on its chewy substance.
"I hear mushy," one student said.
"Sticky," "squeaky," and "squiggly" are other sounds students heard.
Bringing on the award-winning author of "Cucumber Soup" and the author of a variety of other children's books is a boon for the district, said Susan Goodenow, the literacy coordinator for Ridgeview Elementary School.
"A lot of the kids have come up to me and said, 'When is she coming?'" Goodenow said, of students' anticipation for the chance to write a book with Krudwig. "It's really neat how this all fell into place."
Local service organizations donated most of the money to lure the Denver-based author for the week. During a Wednesday evening literacy event Krudwig will give a community presentation that introduces the work students are preparing in the classroom. An upcoming October book-signing event will give students a chance to show off their newly published book to the community.
It's an opportunity for students to shine, when "you'll all be famous," Krudwig promised students, who instantly lit up and clapped their hands.
But Krudwig knows all too well what it's like to be terrified of literature. As a dyslexic student with a lazy eye, Krudwig dreaded reading and writing as a child. It wasn't until the age of 20 that she willingly picked up the book "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" and was instantly hooked.
Now the author of stories in the children's Highlight magazine, creator of greeting cards and a winner of the prestigious Benjamin Franklin award, uses her own childhood examples of fear and frustration to get students over the intimidation of writing.
"When I was your age, I struggled with books," she told students. "I thought I couldn't read right because I was stupid. I was a great storyteller but I couldn't put it on paper."
With the help of her mother, Alice Douthit, the duo energetically gives students one-on-one attention to answer questions.
Third-grader Alexis Losolla of East Elementary School has been looking forward to the writing opportunity. Losolla's favorite part of the day was eating the gummy worm that "cackled and crackled," in her mouth.
"It's exciting to be part of the book," she said.
The writing workshop, which fast tracks eight weeks of instruction into one week, takes students step-by-step through the publishing process. Students will compose a rough draft, transform it into a final copy, sign a contract and receive a published copy that will be displayed in the district school libraries.
With a burgeoning market for child writers, Krudwig pushed the idea that age isn't a factor becoming published.
While Krudwig didn't find a writing niche until well beyond her student years, she urged students not to wait on trying to become published.
"How old do you have to be to be an author?" Krudwig posed to students.
One student replied sagely, "Old enough to read and write."
Amy Hatten can be reached at 824-7031 or firstname.lastname@example.org.