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This third-grader’s writing is tops with readers

Lowell — Riley Carey is taking in stride already being a published writer at “9 years old, turning 10 in two months.”

An avid reader, particularly of comic books of late, the Alto Elementary third-grader said she has been writing for so long she doesn’t remember when she started. 

Kent District Library is a proud sponsor of SNN
Kent District Library is a proud sponsor of SNN

And she just keeps going. In fact, she just finished writing her second chapter book and is already getting started on her third. 

Her first effort, a chapter book titled “Elemental Cats,” met the word count criteria for a short story contest her mother secretly entered on her behalf.

And the tale of “a family of cats (who) discover individual powers because of men doing experiments at a laboratory,” according to its synopsis, was a hit. 

Riley earned the Readers’ Choice award in the youth category in the 11th annual Write Michigan short story competition. The statewide contest was created by Kent District Library and is co-sponsored by Schuler Books.

She said she was partly inspired by the Warriors children’s book series by Erin Hunter. “Other stuff, I just, like, came up with it.”

Riley Carey reads the prologue of her winning short story

Poetry contest now open

Kent District Library’s Write Michigan teen poetry contest is currently accepting entries. Teens are encouraged to submit up to two poems by April 3 at midnight to be eligible to win a $50 Meijer gift card. Last year’s competition received 562 entries.

Those who enter also are invited to read one of their poems at a poetry slam for another chance to win. The slam for teens in grades 6-8 will take place at 6 p.m. on April 26, and the slam for teens in grades 9-12 will take place at 6 p.m. on April 27. Both events will take place at the Kentwood (Richard L. Root) branch.

A ‘serious author photo’ of Alto Elementary third-grader Riley Carey

Statewide Talent

Judged by literary agents and published authors and illustrators, winning Write Michigan stories are published in an anthology by Chapbook Press, which will include a foreword by this year’s celebrity author, Caitlin Horrocks. An additional three top stories in each category will also be published.

An awards ceremony will be held at 1 p.m. on April 15  at the KDL Service Center, 814 W. River Center Drive NE in Comstock Park. An informal book sale and signing will take place after the ceremony.

This year, there were 494 adult entries, 430 teen entries and 327 youth entries. 

“We were once again so impressed with the caliber of entries we received from all over the state. The kids and teens from our state are so talented,” said Katie Zuidema, KDL marketing communications specialist. “Their stories made us laugh, made us cry and made us feel inspired.”  

Alto teacher Carla Wobma said Riley’s work shows many of the concepts she’s learned at school: “Some of the words (she used in the story) are from third grade, and she’s very deliberate about her word choice, but (her) dialogue is just way beyond third grade.”

Riley Carey likes to do her own illustrations as well

Riley said she will keep writing whether the readers are there or not. She writes for herself, “because it’s a fun hobby. Maybe if you’re mad, it’s calming to write, or maybe you want to write a funny book to make yourself laugh.”

How does Riley know how to start a story? Is it ever difficult?

“I actually get writer’s block a lot, like after one chapter I have to think, ‘What should I write for this next chapter?’” she explained. “I just think of random, random, random things and choose the best one… like, in chapter five, the police are after them, blah blah blah, and I didn’t know how he could escape from behind bars. But literally all that happened was his family just ran in and saved him.”

And how does she know when a story is done?

“When you’re on the last page.”

Read more from Lowell:
Students earn accolades for creative writing
Fifth-grader’s story tops with readers

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Morgan Jarema
Morgan Jarema
Morgan Jarema is a reporter and copy editor, covering Northview. She is a Grand Rapids native and a product of Grand Rapids Public Schools, including Brookside and West Leonard elementaries, City Middle/High School and Ottawa Hills. She found her tribe in journalism in 1997 and has never wanted to do anything but write. For 15 years she was a freelance journalist for The Grand Rapids Press, covering local schools and government, religion, business, home & garden and lifestyles. She and her husband, John, think even those without kiddos should be invested in their local schools and made to feel a part of them. Read Morgan's full bio


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