As you all know, we're hosting our first Genre Wars contest, which will include the publication of a print-on-demand anthology. We're donating the proceeds of that anthology to a writing/reading non-profit organization, and we'd like for you to have a say in which organization that will be. So, over these next couple of months, we'll feature some organizations for you to consider. The first is the Young Voices FoundationTM, directed by Bobbi Carducci. We had a chance to interview Bobbi and find out more about her group:
LL: Can you tell us about the Young Voices FoundationTM?
BC: Thank you for hosting this interview.
The Young Voices FoundationTM (www.youngvoicesfoundation.org) is a 501 (c) (3) educational non profit established to mentor young writers and inspire a life-long love of reading and writing in young people. It is located in Round Hill, VA about 60 miles west of Washington, D.C. I am the Executive Director and my husband, Mike, is co-director. We have a wonderful team of volunteers who assist us throughout the year by judging the writing contests, putting out press releases, hosting fundraising events, etc.
In order to help fund our mission and to encourage authors and publishers to produce quality books for young readers, we established the Young Voices FoundationTM Awards honoring books and products that inspire, mentor and/or educate young people and their families. It is primarily a literary award program at this time, but we hope to see it grow to encompass games, products and other types of media. (www.youngvoicesawards.com)
LL: What is your mission, and how did you get started?
BC: The mission of the Young Voices FoundationTM is to reach out to creative kids across the country and provide them with a system of support that will encourage them to develop their talent. Every day families, coaches, community members and fans gather to support young athletes playing all types of sports. They are encouraged, coached and awarded trophies for their efforts, and that is a wonderful thing to see. My goal is to establish a similar system of support for creative young people. Our long term goals include establishing Young Voices FoundationTM writers groups in cities and towns across the country, to host young writers conferences where they can meet and learn from adult writers, editors and publishers, and last but not least, to receive enough funding to publish a literary magazine by and for emerging young writers.
The answer to how we got started is a bit long so I’ll try to be concise.
I was having coffee with some adult writers, and we were talking about what it was like when we were young writers, how there was very little encouragement and virtually no place to send our work for possible publication. We noted that sadly not much had changed over the years.
That short conversation stayed with me. A few weeks later I shared it with my husband, and he said, “let’s change it.” Within two weeks we had met with our attorney and our accountant and established a boutique publishing company. A week later we announced our first writing contest for kids in grades K-12. In 2007 we published an anthology of short stories written by 62 kids. A year after that we published 64 more. The response from the kids and their parents was so positive and so full of gratitude for the support we were offering we knew we had to go bigger and to do that we would need funding. That’s when we established the Young Voices FoundationTM, allowing us to accept donations and grants and begin to offer support to kids all across America. Since then we have had over 173,000 hits on our website and received stories from kids in 43 states.
LL: Specifically, what are some of the things you do to promote writing and reading to children and young adults?
BC: The Young Voices FoundationTM sponsors four writing contests a year, with a new one opening each quarter. There is one premier contest with over $1,500 in cash prizes and three standard contests with a total of $350 each in cash prizes. The winning entries are published on the website and, with parental consent, we send press releases to their local newspapers and contact their schools to announce their success. Writers can enter in one of three age categories established so third graders are not competing with high school seniors, etc. We also send Certificates of Achievement to hundreds of kids whose work did not earn a cash award but is very good and deserves to be recognized.
Every month we present a young reader with a free book. Kids across America fill out an online entry form for an opportunity to receive the Book of the Month as listed on the website. The books are often donated to the foundation by the author. One month it will be a picture book, the next a young adult title, sometimes it’s a board book. We like to vary the subject and the age range to appeal to as many young people as possible. We are always looking for books that will appeal to an otherwise reluctant reader.
There is a message board on the website, and kids are encouraged to share their writing experiences, ask questions about writing and/or publishing, talk about their favorite books, and announce their successes. And I am always available to answer their questions off line if they want or need more help than can be found on the website. My personal goal is to help beginning writers of any age reach their writing goals.
LL: Can you tell us about some of your success stories?
Kelsey Baker of Purcellville, VA: Her short story, The Sign, was the First Place winner in the middle school category in the 2007 Young Voices of Loudoun County short story contest. Kelsey helped mentor other young writers by helping to create the Young Writers of Western Loudoun writers group and serving as its first leader. Her essay about life in rural Loudoun County appeared in Elan magazine.
Katie Bock of Macon, IL: Katie won first prize in the Young Voices of AmericaTM Rewrite a Story contest. This contest was inspired by a request from Sacra Nicolas, PhD, who is a professor of elementary education at the University of Oklahoma and a former middle school teacher.
Dr. Nicolas wrote: “In 1990 2 of my middle school colleagues and I wrote a young adult book and entered it into the Ted Turner book contest (focus on creating a better world). It didn't win (Ismael was the winning submission), and we have sat on it for almost 20 years not knowing the appropriate next step. We have just had the idea that we would like to put it online and let students rewrite the book in some kind of contest and the winner would share authorship with the three of us.”
Katie is now working on the rewrite of the entire book and will be listed as co-author when the book is submitted for publication.
Maureen Howard of Leesburg, VA: Maureen’s Thanksgiving-themed short story, "Thanks to Tank," was first published in the 2007 Young Voices of Loudoun County anthology. She has since adapted it into a childrens book scheduled for publication in September 2010.
A number of participants have contacted us to express their thanks for the opportunity to share their writing and to tell us they are now considering careers in journalism, writing or teaching.
LL: Is there anything else you'd like our readers to know about your group?
BC: We know that not all the kids who participate in our programs will become writers, just as parents know that every kid who plays high school football will not become a pro athlete. However, it is creative thinking that built America, and it is creative thinking that will bring the scientific advances and engineering breakthroughs of the future. By encouraging creative young minds to express themselves, we are teachings kids not what to think, but how to think.