Author-illustrator's advice for students: Write on

By Maribeth Holtz
Sturgis Journal

Any kid can become an author.

That’s what author-illustrator Aaron Zenz told Wenzel Elementary School students Oct. 26. In a room full of anxious children raising their hands to ask questions about his book “The Hiccupotamus,” Zenz said all they need to become authors is an idea, paper, some colored pencils” and lots of practice.

“You know all my secrets, so you can be authors - you can write books!” he said.

The Grand Haven-based author was the guest speaker at Wenzel’s Young Authors Day. Held annually, the day includes crafts and activities to get students excited about writing.

Zenz’ first published book is “The Hiccupotamus,” though he has the ideas and illustrations ready to go for more. “The Hiccupotamus” tells a story in rhyme of a hippo with a humorous case of the hiccups. His animal friends try to “find a therapy, some cure which they could shareapy, a what or why or whereapy, to stop this long nightmareapy.”

Zenz told the students it’s OK to make up words and to be lighthearted when writing a comical book. Word choice, ideas, and how the book was made were some of his key points to the students.

Zenz said he loves speaking to children, partly because he can see their reactions to topics, which gives him ideas for more books.

Zenz started speaking to students while promoting his book. He liked it so much that he now seeks out schools where he can speak.

“I didn’t anticipate enjoying it as much as I do,” Zenz said.

Other activities at Young Authors Day included petting animals from a local farm, learning about animals from high-school volunteers, and making puppets to help them tell stories later.

Beth Scheske, founder of Sturgis Playmakers, had students make-believe they were going to a jungle, collecting items without stepping in quick sand and crevices.

Students will write about their experiences at Young Authors Day in the weeks to come.

Teacher Tracie Pueschel said Young Authors Day is all about focusing on writing and giving students ideas. Each year the school hosts a published author and activities, but the activities vary. This year a jungle and animal theme was used to go with the book “The Hiccupotamus.”

This is the first year Young Authors Day was held in the fall. When it was held in the spring, the students left feeling excited about writing, Pueschel said. Teachers wanted to take that excitement closer to the beginning of the school year.

“We thought maybe it would fire them up earlier in the year,” she said.