Teen writers group at Cockeysville Library

Rachel Finkelstein, left, 15, of Pikesville, Adrianna McCourt, second from left, 15, of Cockeysville and Kyleigh Parks, third from left, 17, of Sparks, chat with author Gary Lester, right, of Owings Mills during a meeting of the Teen Writers' Club at Cockeysville Library Wednesday, Feb. 29. (Photo by Steve Ruark, Patuxent Publishing / March 6, 2012)

On a rain-soaked, foggy night that could have come straight from the novels they were crafting, several members of Cockeysville Library's Teen Writers Club met last week to exchange ideas, inspiration and encouragement.

The group, which meets on Wednesday nights, allows young writers in the area to bounce ideas off one another and explore a changing craft with their peers.

"I realized there are lots of kids out there who like to write," said Diane Booth, a writer and Monkton resident who serves as the group's leader.

Booth, a member of the Maryland Writer's Association, said writers are typically isolated people, but "teens who isolate themselves can be especially lonely."


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As such, Booth said one of the group's prime functions is to introduce young writers to each other and foster relationships — some of which have extended to outside the group's meeting times.

The club started at the Hereford branch, and recently moved to Cockeysville. Booth asked the Maryland Writer's Association to sponsor it, and through her connections with that organization, she lines up writers to come in and talk to the members.

Though just four of the group's members made it to Wednesday's meeting, those that did had the opportunity to pick the brain of published author fantasy and science-fiction writer Gary Lester — whose expertise was in line with much of the groups' interests.

"I'm a nonfiction writer," Booth said. "I can reach out to (writers like) Gary, and they come in to help them."

After going into his own background a bit, Lester discussed the subject of "world creation" with the girls — the art of organizing and creating a fictional world in which stories are set.

It was a subject that Kyleigh Parks, 17, of Sparks, instantly connected with.

Lester said that like many fantasy writers, he uses maps to keep track of his created worlds. Kyleigh came prepared with a map of her own, and the group was able to use it as an example throughout the class.

For Kyleigh, whose story is one of heroes and dragons — good dragons, that is — the opportunity to bounce ideas off of a published author is one of many benefits that comes from her attendance. She joined the class when she saw a flier, and because she is home-schooled, saw it as an opportunity to get out of the house a bit more.

"I thought it would be a new experience, to meet different writers and learn what they like," she said. "I'm stuck in the fantasy genre, and I can't get out of it."

Another group member, Rachel Finklestein, 15, of Pikesville, deals in a fictional world too, though despite the presence of werewolves, it's based mostly on our own.

Still, Lester had advice for using even the most mundane aspects of our world to set the stage for a reader.

Trees, for example, can be described as bright and colorful when the setting requires it, but if the themes are darker or morbid, dead trees or a desolate landscape can convey that.

Lester was also able to help Rachel with organization. While the beginning and end of her story is already written, she admitted to becoming frustrated while keeping track of all the moving parts. That frustration led her mother to seek out a writing class for Rachel.

"(The class has) helped me organize everything," Rachel said. "Before, it was all tangled up."

Lester suggested that if outlining doesn't work for her, story boarding would allow her to move pieces around when necessary.

It was bits of advice such as that, as well as his quick sense of humor that made Lester's presence Wednesday invaluable.

Sarah Steward, 15, of Towson, said she thought Lester would be much more serious, and enjoyed his laid back approach to talking with the budding authors. Sarah described her own style as "weird fantasy stuff," adding that she could see herself writing thrillers and detective stories later in life.

Wednesday was just her third class, but she said she has already seen the affects on her work.

"I like (the) critiquing," she said. "It helps a lot to see where I'm struggling, and where I can advance and be better."

Adrianna McCourt, 15, of Cockeysville, was quiet through much of the Feb. 29 session, but said she enjoys getting together with the group each week and talking about their interests.

"They like different things I never would want to read about, but the way they talk about it, then I want to read them," she said.

And though they're unified by a common interest, that they have their own passions and specialties makes the group that much more enjoyable for the members.

"These girls are all different, but they're all really cool," Sarah said.

The Teen Writers Club at the Cockeysville Library, 9833 Greenside Drive, Cockeysville, meets Wednesdays, 7 to 8:30 p.m. The agenda each week includes critiques, a writing exercise and other activities, and sometimes guest authors come for a talk and discussion. For more details, contact Diane Booth at 410-557-9335 or booth@ix.netcom.com.