AUSTIN — A weekend in Austin opened up limitless possibilities for students who are opening good books. Students from across the state converged on the city this weekend for the Texas Teen Book Festival at St. Edwards University.

Copperas Cove High School and S.C. Lee Junior High School libraries sponsored the trip for nearly 50 students to meet some of their favorite authors.

Cove High School sophomore Shaliyah Smith could hardly contain her enthusiasm when she deboarded the bus.

“I’m so excited to see authors and actually get to meet them,” she said.

James Dashner, author of the “Maze Runner” series that is a popular movie now in theaters, was the festival’s keynote speaker and one of the more widely-known authors that the students took photos with and listened to their suggestions for becoming successful book authors.

Students were able to learn from several panels of published authors and attend writing workshops such as the Blackout Poetry Workshop taught by Austin Kleon, author of the best-selling book, “Show Your Work.”

Martin Walker Elementary School Librarian Teresa Garrett chaperoned the trip.

“I think students need to hear about the writing process from authors to validate their own writing experiences. Nearly every author shares that it isn’t easy,” Garrett said. “James Dashner explained how he could have given up at any point, but he didn’t and was eventually very successful. Many authors talk about being awkward in their youth and I think that resonates with many teens and encourages them to continue writing.”

Students waited in long lines for a chance to have a book signed or a photo opportunity with their favorite authors, said Dayna Mellberg, district library coordinator for Cove ISD.

“These authors are like rock stars to these students. Seeing their excitement and enthusiasm for books and literature makes even waiting in a sun-scorching, two-hour line completely worth every second,” she said.

S. C. Lee Junior High School Librarian Sandra Carswell said taking students to these special events in multibeneficial.

“Because talent and achievement in athletics and performance arts are celebrated in our schools and communities, students see those areas as possible career choices. Writing, however, is a solitary process and generally not shared or praised publicly,” she said. “Students with talent and interest in writing are encouraged by hearing authors at the Texas Teen Book Festival talk about their writing careers. They see by the long lines of people waiting to get their books autographed that writing can indeed be a lucrative career option.”

On the bus ride back to Copperas Cove, the students chattered enthusiastically about their experiences.

“I thought I would hear only the sound of pages turning as the students read their books. I was wrong. They were excited and chatting about all they saw and heard,” Mellberg said. “The students are the reason we plan these trips.”

As Cove High School sophomore Camryn Staggs exited the bus to head home, she looked back gratefully at Melberg.

“Thank you so much for this opportunity,” she said. “I will see you in the library on Monday.”

Cove ISD libraries are planning another trip for students on the teen day during the Texas Library Conference in Austin in April.

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