A menu becomes literary inspiration

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By Kirsten Laskey

Ever thought words like smothered breakfast burrito, Jeanie Southwest biscuits and gravy or huevos rancheros could be spotlighted in a story, or that a menu could inspire a literary endeavor? The Los Alamos Writers Group is proposing this challenge to the young people in the community.

The writers group, along with Daylight Delights, is calling all young writers to take part in a writing contest.

In the competition, participants from kindergarten through high school, are asked to go to Daylight Delights, located at 112 Central Park Square, and pick up a menu. Depending on the writers’ grade level, they will underline a number of words on the menu, which will be included in an original story. For high school competitors, 10 words need to be selected; for middle school writers, eight words should be underlined; fourth through sixth-graders will choose six words; and kindergarten through third grade students will select four.

Stories should not be more than 300 words and can be about any subject and genre.

The contest begins today and will run until noon May 8. Flyers will be posted around town and forms, with the instructions, are available at Daylight Delights.

Judging will be done blindly and writers will be evaluated on their originality, creativity, and if their story has a clear beginning, middle and end. Grammar, punctuation, sentence structure and spelling will also be considered.

An awards ceremony will be held from 9-11 a.m. May 22 at Daylight Delights. Cash prizes will be given to the first place winners in each age group. Second and third place winners will also receive awards.

Jennifer McKerley, a member of the writers group, said, “I’m eager to see some of the entries. It’s going to be fun to see how creative the kids are going to be.”

The contest, McKerrley added, accomplishes two goals. First, it encourages young people to nurture their writing skills as well as their creativity. Second, the contest promotes local businesses and buying locally.

Kevin Albright, who owns Daylight Delights along with his wife, Melinda, said, “We’ve been excited to be a part of different community things that involve kids in particular. We had on a number of occasions taken part in Senior Appreciation Night … (also) we have a large number of young people who come in with their families on Saturdays … we just like to be an outlet for people to come in and have fun in the community.”

He added while a number of groups have used his restaurant as a meeting place in the past, the writers group has been one of the more interesting.

In the past, Angela Chipera, another member of the writers group, said the group hosted a science fiction writing contest that was held in honor of Ray Bradbury, which had great success.

Similar to that contest, she said this year’s competition is an opportunity to get involved in young people’s lives. Plus, many of the competitors in the sci-fi contest continued to write in college, Chipera said.

Writers group member Sherry King added, “This may be a way for people to get interested in writing.”

Another member, Sherry Hatfield agreed. “Children are our future and keeping children interested in literature is a big plus.’

Member Inez Ross commented that young people also enjoy being a part of a competition.

She added, “As a former teacher, I am looking forward to reading students’ stories after 17 years of not having to. I remember going to the English Expo in Albuquerque where students wrote ‘on the spot’ (and) competed in many different categories. The excitement of competition is a greater incentive than a teacher-assigned essay as homework.”

In addition to fostering the next generation of writers, the contest also celebrates the 20th anniversary of the local writers group.

McKerley said Kathleene Parker, a lifetime member, started the group. Before the Los Alamos Writers Group, there were several writer gatherings for critiquing work but Parker pulled them all together and gave structure and consistency to the groups.

The purpose behind the group, LaVerne Chapman said, is to “encourage one another’s writing.”

It is also for fellowship amongst professional writers, Chipera said.

It doesn’t matter if a writer is just started out or has published several works, they are all welcomed in the group. =Living in Los Alamos is not a requirement. Some members live as far away as Virginia, Washington and even Hawaii.

The group meets from 7-8:30 p.m. the second Thursday of every month at Daylight Delights.