Young Authors Reading & Anthology Launch 2019

344_youngauthors19_brendaladdphoto.jpgMore than 300 guests—Badgerdog campers, their supportive families, and proud teaching artists—attended this year’s Young Authors Reading & Anthology Launch at the Central Library on October 5.

“The Young Authors Reading and Anthology Launch is hands-down my favorite event of the year!” said Programs Coordinator Katelin Kelly. “When I see a camper pick up their anthology for the first time and flip through the pages to find their name and their writing inside, it’s a moment of pure magic. To find yourself in the pages of a book is deeply empowering.”


Nancy Hoover, art director at the Girls’ School of Austin, revealed the two pieces selected for the 2019 Rise and Emerge anthologies: fourth-grader Luella Fincher-McConnell’s pastel, Summer Peaches, and recent GSA grad and current New School artist Anabelle Abel, with her piece, I Never Learned to Fly.

Nearly 40 campers from the summer program were honored with the Literary Citizenship Award for their commitment to supporting fellow writers in the classroom and beyond, and 13 selected campers shared their work onstage. Austin native, writing advocate, and friend of The Library Foundation Forrest Preece awarded prizes to eight winning writers from the 2018 and 2019 Rise and Emerge anthologies.

Badgerdog alumna and novelist Lorena Lore attended the reading and met both former teaching artists and fellow writers. “Badgerdog was such an affirmative experience in my passion for writing,” said Lore in her recap of the event, “and I’m always happy to see other students benefit from it.”

YA Reading Typewriter Station FamiliesTeaching artist and Typewriter Rodeo cowboy Sean Petrie typed an on-the-spot poem inspired by an audience suggestion—summer—and captured the longing for that time when imaginations run wild at Badgerdog Creative Writing Summer Camp. As the program concluded, children and families visited creativity stations that inspired storytelling with typewriters, Scrabble tiles, magic cards, and even Nancy Drew mystery novels.

The event was not only a chance for families to create with their children, but also to see these young writers receive their copies of Rise and Emerge. Students autographed the pages, proud to see their work in print.

“I often hear educators talk about the importance of children seeing themselves in the characters they read in books,” said Kelly. “How rare and amazing is it for a child to see themselves (literally!) in a book that they helped write? I want Badgerdog to give all children the gift of being seen, feeling affirmed, and knowing that their story is worth sharing with the world. This is why Badgerdog exists. This is why I do this work.”

Check out more photos of the 2019 Young Authors Reading here!

The Library Foundation’s Badgerdog Creative Writing program allows writers of all ages and skill levels to examine the techniques of literary artists and experiment with language to communicate experience and meaning. Our goal is to empower Austinites to develop the skills necessary to communicate effectively and beautifully, to amplify individual voices, and to share in a love of reading and writing. Learn more about the Badgerdog program!


Forrest Preece Young Authors Award

Forrest Preece (middle) with award-winners Jason Luo (left) and Nitya Ganesh (right).

Each year, Forrest Preece and his wife, Linda Ball, honor two young writers from our Badgerdog Creative Writing Summer Camp and recognize their work at our Illumine gala. Forrest and Linda read through a stack of several dozen impressive poems and stories written by our summer campers and somehow make a very difficult decision — choosing which two pieces will win the prize. (One award is given in the elementary-age category, and one to middle- and high-school students.)

This year, Forrest and Linda chose Nitya Ganesh’s poem “Joy” and Jason Luo’s poem “Fearless,” which are included here. This year’s runners-up are Keerthanyaa Arun for her poem “Meant to Be” and Kate Hirschfeld for her poem “The Kinds of People.” You can enjoy their work below. All winners receive a cash prize provided by Forrest and Linda. Both Nitya and Jason read their poems at the Illumine gala on Friday, November 11 — to much applause and fanfare!

Nitya told us it was an honor to receive this award. “I am grateful to my parents for providing me this wonderful opportunity at the Badgerdog Camp. I also promised my mom that I will thank her when I get any award, for always keeping my pencils sharp and ready for me. P.S. My mom did remind me about the last part.” Nitya also wanted to thank her instructor, Katie McClendon, “for encouraging me to try harder and showing me that writing is cool and fun.”

Congratulations to these four incredible and inspiring writers! And our heartfelt thanks to Forrest and Linda for their continued support of this special honor, one of few that recognizes young writers in our community.

Cecily Sailer
Library Foundation Programs Manager

Linda Ball and Forrest Preece with Nitya and her mom and dad.
Linda Ball and Forrest Preece with Nitya and her mom and dad.


behind all the
letting your anger
drift away like a
flowing stream,
letting your
depression scurry
away like a squirrel
with a nut,
shining through all the the
darkness like the
sun behind the clouds,
shining its way
like the moon
in a dark sky floating
in the night
like a cupcake
behind plates
and plates
of broccoli,
when you have
it, joy spreads
like butter on

Nitya Ganesh
Forrest Preece Award Winner (Grades 3-6)


The miniscule creature lays sprawled before my eyes,
its tissue paper wings extending awkwardly to both sides
of its fragile, emerald-dotted back
grounded on my palm.

Its small frame was etched with the exhaustion
of maintaining
her delicate,

But her eyes were alive with a different inferno.
In her dark eyes streaked the spark
of the insistence
to survive,
against all odds,
against all obstacles,
against the volatile world that doubted her so.
In her dark eyes streaked the spark
of the defiant hummingbird.

Jason Luo
Forrest Preece Award Winner (Grades 7-12)

Meant To Be

Sadly and slowly, the blue dolphin swims
through the deep blue sea.
As if it were meant to be.
The dolphin longs to feel that large, tall tree.
As if it were meant to be.
Every time I see the dolphin,
its eyes look like they are filled with pleas.
As if it were meant to be.
I long to see the dolphin happy,
so I bring it out to see the world it needs to see.
As if it was meant to be.
It looks at me, its eyes now filled with glee.
As if it was meant to be.

Keerthanyaa Arun
Forrest Preece Young Author Award Runner-Up (Grades 3-6)

The Kinds of People

Let’s go back
to when the days were counted not in numbers but in discoveries.
Small fingers outstretched to the sky, trying to get a grasp on this world
one experience at a time.
Asking questions without answers,
your favorite word was always “Why?”
Punctuated with intensely curious eyes,
your head cocked slightly to the side,
expecting a response even when there wasn’t one to give.
Minds full of fairy dust,
wide eyes of wanderlust,
never knowing what life had in store for us.

Back to when you had perpetually paint-stained hands,
dirt under your fingernails,
hair tangled by the wind,
mud stains on your new dress.
Don’t tell Mom, but you always liked it better that way anyway,
said it reminded you of chocolate milk.
And everyone knows there’s nothing on this earth better than chocolate milk.

Back to when we gazed at the stars so long our eyes themselves began to twinkle.
We took to staring contests during the day to share our galaxies.
We woke up early to watch the sun paint the sky like a canvas.
Call us crazy, but we thought it beat Cartoon Network any day.
We searched the sky for the Big Dipper and Orion’s Belt.
They were the only constellations we knew,
but the way our eyes lit up when we saw them
made them the only ones we needed.

Back to when wonder was our only motive.
We dove in headfirst not because we had courage,
but because we didn’t know to be scared yet.

Back to when we rolled the windows down just to taste the wind,
and daydreaming was a common pastime, not a waste of it.
When we were more than just people…
We were heroes and wizards and pirates and royalty.
We soared through storm clouds and danced with dandelions.
Our heartbeats were the only music we ever needed
and every raindrop was proof that magic really did exist.
Bedtime stories didn’t seem so far off.

What happened between then and now?
How did magic become merely a device for Disney to make a profit?
And four-leaf clovers became so rare we stopped even bothering to look?
We stay up late but keep the curtains closed to the cosmos.
They say money can’t buy happiness, but it’s starting to replace it.
We shy away from opportunity because we finally learned what fear is.
We closed our fists and turned our eyes from the skies.
Your favorite word became “because.”

Except for a few.
Some people never stopped daydreaming.
They still wish on dandelions, though some may call them childish.
They wander forests in their free time because their curiosity surpasses their fears.
They smile at the sky simply because they can
and aren’t afraid to get wet if it means dancing in the rain.
They seek out the beauty in the extraordinary and the mundane.
They live to find stories and never stop looking.
Most of all, they still ask questions,
only now they search for the answers on their own.

Kate Hirschfeld
Forrest Preece Young Author Award Runner-Up (Grades 7-12)

2014 Forrest Preece Young Author’s Award

Each year, local arts patron and all-around fantastic guy, Forrest Preece, and his wife Linda Ball, honor two of the young writers in our Badgerdog Creative Writing Summer Camp. This honor, the Forrest Preece Young Authors Award, recognizes the literary accomplishments and creative talents young people in our community.

We are pleased to celebrate this year’s winners, third-grader Brandee Benson, and ninth-grader Jenna Hoover. Last Friday, November 7, Forrest formally presented the awards to Brandee and Jenna at our annual Illumine gala.


We’re so grateful to Forrest and Linda for supporting celebrating the artistic achievements of Austin’s youth. In addition, we must thank our teaching instructors who share their talents with young creative writers.

Congratulations to Brandee and Jenna, whose winning pieces are published below.


Journey of a Baby Tooth

I am a tooth, a baby tooth. I wonder why I am called that, since, I mean, I am eight-years-old! When I was born, I found out I was attached to the pink stuff above me, and then I saw my brothers and sisters growing  around me, and we had to work really hard, pounding this icky, chewy   stuff. I also realized each of us were connected to one giant piece of the pink stuff, and I do have to admit, I grew pretty attached to mine. We were best buddies, and we loved each other dearly.

Each night, we would see this really scary razor thingie, and my pink thing and I avoided it as much as possible. Then I turned yellow for some reason. So, anyway, when the razor thingie came, it also had this gooey stuff that made us blue, and then we got rinsed. The worst part was when they stuck a hard rope between my brothers and sisters and me. Worst of all, it hurt my pink thing, so he was sad.

One day, I found that my older sister downstairs was wiggling free from her pink thing, and we talked a lot together about it. Then one day, she fell completely off her pink thing! We were so shocked! The last words she said before she was taken out of the house were “I will miss my pink thing!” Then she was gone. We were silent for a moment, and then someone else screamed, “I’m loose, too!” After that, it was chaos. My brothers and sisters became loose and fell, one after another.

We noticed a new baby tooth growing in an old baby tooth’s place. He was rather shy, so we each said hello to him. We welcomed him into the family. I didn’t startle anyone because I did not tell them that I was loose. Soon, I fell out, and everyone gasped. The last words I said were, “I love you all!”

I was put in a dark box and was delighted to find my lost brothers and sisters. We rejoiced, and I had a great, fun life in that box, where we were free. But I hope the new baby teeth will take care of our pink things and be happy.

Brandee Benson
3rd grade


Watches, Waltzes and Other Weightless Things

She carries a splint.
Not so much carries but wears,
a thing forced upon her wrist to
help a healing bone,
though it hasn’t done much
by way of healing.

She carries a bracelet.
Woven by a friend, it
rests on her right wrist always,
leaving red marks on her
pale, freckled skin when she writes.
It’s come slightly unraveled a
few times, one end poking through
in an attempt to escape,
though it hasn’t done much
by way of escaping.

She carries a jacket,
a red and white affair with
the number 13 on it in white
thread, a reversed zipper that
confused her at first but no
longer does. It’s a shield, in her
mind, a neon sign that reads, No, I’m
not different. Yes, I play soccer, or
used to,
though it hasn’t done much
by way of shielding.

She carries a fob watch,
the chain long enough to
nearly reach her waist, but
it’s of no consequence to her.
It’s newer than her other things,
with only a few days
separating now and when her
best friend gave it to her as an
almost-two-months-late present, but
timing doesn’t matter, the gift is
the important thing, a
reminder of their friendship,
as though she would
ever forget,
so it hasn’t done much
by way of reminding.

Above all, she carries
the words in her head,
a dance of letters unique to
herself, and the waltz seems
never to end, so she snatches up
a pencil and scribbles, the
scrawlings her way of explaining
the world to herself and
herself to the world,
though they never seem to do much
by way of explaining.

Jenna Hoover
9th grade

Forrest Preece Young Authors Award Winners

Friday evening, the Austin Public Library Friends Foundation honored some of the finest writers in Austin at its annual Illumine gala. This year’s honorees included fiction writer Stephen Harrigan, Nobel Prize winning physicist Dr. Steven Weinberg (for nonfiction), and young adult fiction writer Cynthia Lietich-Smith. This year’s Luminary Award went to Carmel Borders, founder of the Tapestry Foundation, which supports education and literacy initiatives in Central Texas.

For the first time this year, the Library Foundation honored two young writers, both participants in Badgerdog’s Creative Writing Summer Camp. The Forrest Preece Young Authors Award, sponsored of course by local arts patron and all-around fantastic guy, Forrest Preece, and his wife Linda Ball, recognizes the accomplishments and talents of young people in our community. This year’s winners are Katie Jackson, a sixth-grader at the Meridian School, and Emma Baumgardner, an eighth-grader at Kealing Middle School. As it happens, both writers attended Badgerdog’s summer camp session at The Griffin School, working with teaching artists Bradley Harrison and Nina McConigley, respectively. We’re so grateful to Forrest and Linda for supporting the creative endeavors of Austin’s young people. We must also thank Bradley, Nina, and all of our teaching artists for sharing their talents and passions with young writers.

Congratulations to Katie and Emma, whose winning pieces are featured here!

Katie Jackson, Forrest Preece, and Emma Baumgardner

Uprooting Trees

The Pixies of the Wind and the Spirits of the Clouds have been enemies for centuries. Pixies of the Wind have never revealed themselves to the human eye and can only travel with the power of air under their wings. They drag their air behind them and blow it around.

Wind Pixies live above the middle of the ocean in invisible, flying cities, but sometimes they must migrate to the land. As soon as they start flying, they are visible only to the Spirits of the Clouds, which are the only creatures that can ever see them. Then the Cloud Spirits’ faces turn purple with rage, and they start growling and screaming at the Pixies.

The Wind Pixies know they must speed up to get to the land before the Spirits start attacking. When they start to fly much faster, they push the water from the ocean with them as they travel towards land. Since the creatures aren’t believed to be much larger than bumblebees, it takes thousands to push one wave of the ocean. But if the Pixies aren’t fast enough, the Cloud Spirits will start to rain torrents of water upon them, each drop half the size of the Pixies themselves, and hurl their spears of fire.

The enraged Spirits chase the Wind Pixies all the way to the land, where their epic duel continues, the Pixies blowing their wind wildly, uprooting trees and carrying everything away, with the Cloud Spirits screaming at them with their purple faces and pouring their terrible fury onto the land. The Pixies of the Wind and the Spirits of the Clouds continue like this in their battle until both are too exhausted to fight any longer. The Pixies slowly return to their homes and the Spirits’ rage cools down and they float away. But be warned: their duel will never be over.

Katie Jackson

Breath Notes

I shape my way with movement
emerging in my throat
and slowly thread the needle
of song.
Bursting to breathe
open my lungs
sound takes moments. Standing
I move to the will of the way
my tongue clicks.
Lips hum,
body sways,
head resonates, bubbling.
And voices cling together,
linking arms,
thumbs pressed against index fingers.
Melody paints piano keys,
never grounded.
Lights pinch our eyes
Laced with sweat,
we burn
with the moment
of performing.
Teeth engulfing our sorrows
like we have wings.
Fourteen of us
living on the stage.
With our passion for music
curling around our chins
and stretching to our ears,
we smile.
We’re not going to be finished
as long as we carry
the note.

Emma Baumgardner