I have been a writer for as long as I have known how to form words on paper. I love words, and I always have.
While the formal educational system in this country leaves much to be desired, it cannot be denied that the credit for my early start in writing goes to the Princeton City School District in Southwestern Ohio.
The "Young Authors" program was instrumental in teaching certain basic fundamentals. Every year in elementary school we created a little book. I still have most of mine.
In first grade, I won 1st prize for my entry, a story about a leprechaun.
It was in putting these little books together that I learned my #1 fashion rule: DON'T MIX PATTERNS!!!
When we made the covers for our books we were given the opportunity to choose from various patterns and colors of contact paper for the inside and outside cover. This was when I learned to use a pattern for the outside and a solid color for the inner part of the cover. (Or vice versa) Two plain colors, while boring, were okay - but no plaid with polka dots. Today's fashion designers make me dizzy with their pattern mixing.
High School Young Authors contests were more diverse, with several categories. I entered poetry and won twice, 1st place one year and 2nd place another.
This competition, which sounds so simple, took many hours of school time and the assistance of numerous volunteers to complete. I've looked up my former school district and was delighted to find that they still continue the Young Authors Program to this day:
The English Department sponsors the Young Authors writing contests in an effort to recognize, to reward and to encourage the work of aspiring young writers. The Poetry contest is held in the fall, and The Short Story and Essay Contest is held in the spring. Each student's work is evaluated by the members of the English Department. First, second and third places are recognized with engraved plaques. Honorable mentions are recognized with a certificate of commendation."
(excerpted from this page)
I think more schools should have programs like this - financed by grassroots charitable support rather than waiting for the government to come "do something" which is never going to happen.
Anything that helps to develop confidence along with a healthy love of reading and writing should be considered too valuable to dismiss lightly. We made our books from paper sewed together by volunteers and contact paper which we brought in ourselves, for the most part. Cardboard formed the foundation for our covers, and there is certainly no shortage of second-hand cardboard around.
Be creative! That's the most important part of all. Put a little bit of YOU into it and you'll be surprised at what you get back out of it.