Creativity, literacy and a love of writing were recently celebrated during an awards ceremony for the 2013 Short Story Writing Contest at the Berkshire Athenaeum.
Nearly 40 children, young adults and their friends and family members gathered Friday in the library's auditorium to celebrate the winners and all the contest contributors with certificates and a reception. The top winners also earned cash prizes.
Local children's author Ty Allan Jackson gave a brief keynote address and helped Children and Youth Services Librarian Nan Pearson hand out awards.
"Your imagination is like a fingerprint. No two people have the same imagination," Jackson told the audience. "Imagination is the true start to any story."
He used iconic children's author Dr. Seuss (Theodor Seuss Geisel) as an example of the limitlessness of story ideas, noting "Who had ever heard of ‘Whoville' before him?"
There were 38 submitted entries from youths ages 5 to 18 years old. Stories genres included animal tales, steampunk fantasy, realistic fiction, sad stories, comedies and "the just plain weird," Jackson said.
"There's a lot of talent here in Berkshire County, and in this room," Jackson said.
Mary Kinnas, Marilyn Manning and Bea Da Silva served as contest judges for this summer reading program activity. Pearson said a bound copy of all the submitted entries will be made available for reading in the children's library department at the Berkshire Athenaeum.
Sibling award-winners Casey Petruzella, 18, and Evan Petruzella, 11, said they're both avid readers and liked having the opportunity to write for a contest.
"I don't think there are a lot of avenues around here for them to do something like this. I think it's great," said their mother, Chrystal Shelley, who teaches a homeschool group.
Jay Ganesh and Ganesh V. Nathan regularly bring their daughters Sharanya, 14, and Sandhya, 6, to the library for the summer reading program.
Sandhya Ganesh won a first-place prize in the Ages 5-6 category of the writing contest for her story, "A Week of Specialists at School," about a little girl named Charco, who finds confidence and has fun through enrichment programs at her school.
She and her sister said a good story is one that engages the senses.
"I like the funny books the most, the ones that make me laugh, but I read all genres," said Sharanya.
"I like the ones that make me feel excited, and have lots of pictures," Sandhya said.
Jackson said the key to raising good writers is for parents and caregivers to establish a culture of reading and creative problem-solving at home.
He told the audience, "You are an amazing story. Your plot will change. The scenery will change. The characters in your life will change. But you'll always be the leading man or woman in your life."