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Carroll libraries promoting creative writing programs for teens

Sofia Filippi, a Century High School freshman, frequents the Eldersburg branch of Carroll County Public Library every week. As a vivacious reader, she will skim through many novels for inspiration, reading the last page first, until she checks out one or two for home reading.

"I see a movie in my head," she said. "I try to write it out and detail it."

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CCPL has aggressively developed and promoted events catered toward teenagers like Filippi - those who want to engage and broaden their creative writing skills, according to Hannah Cobb, a library associate at the Mount Airy branch of Carroll County Public Library.

Cobb is among CCPL staff who have coordinated the Teen Create challenge, a several month-long countywide contest for middle and high schoolers, who can submit their short stories, graphic novels, poems, nonfiction pieces and films for assessment.

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An extension of the defunct Summer Shorts contest, in which teens could submit short stories over the summer, Teen Create offers students the opportunity to stretch their creative muscles across multiple mediums, said Angie Knight, adult services supervisor at the Eldersburg branch of CCPL.

In the public schools, students may not be granted the chance to write creatively, as teachers need to focus on the assigned curricula, said Knight, who is also collaborating on Teen Create.

Filippi said she said that her classmates aren't provided the opportunity to write creatively, but she will continue to.

"You can do whatever you want, you have control of everything," she said. "In good writing, things are unexpected, things happen. Good writing gets to you, makes you furious."

Creative writing, however, is a key tool in self-expression, Knight said.

"It inspires kids to be themselves," she said.

CCPL has accepted Teen Create entries countywide since September - the deadline being Feb. 1, 2014. Judges, pulled from various Carroll County institutions like McDaniel College and Random House, will review the submissions based on five to seven criterion per category.

Knight said $50 will be awarded for first prize in each category - with yet-undetermined prizes presented to second and third place.

Hannah Johnson, also a freshman at Century High, said she will be submitting a poem and an article she wrote for The Scroll, Century's student newspaper, for the contest.

Johnson is a member of the Eldersburg branch's Teen Advisory Board, which is composed of 20 students who assist CCPL staff in brainstorming and executing writing programs aimed at teens. Chapters of Teen Advisory Boards are present at two of the six CCPL branches, according to CCPL Public Relations and Marketing Manager Lisa Picker.

The team develops monthly lock-ins with a new theme every month, Johnson said. A varying amount of teens attend depending on the topic, and discuss literature and play games - this month will feature a "Catching Fire" lock-in in conjunction with the upcoming film release.

"It's very difficult for teens to get involved in reading," she said. "It's exciting to encourage that."

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Cobb said she is encouraged by the teenagers who want to continue writing - she said many of the regulars at the library have formed a tight-knit community among the shelves.

Cobb recommends aspiring authors try online fan fiction, a popular movement in which you develop alternate story lines to book, TV and other series.

"They're sharing the written word, which is great," Cobb said, referring to fan fiction websites.

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