Imaginations ran wild in Iola High School Saturday morning.
As visiting authors Pamela Duncan Edwards and Dandi Daley Mackall provided youngsters with helpful hints about the creative craft of writing, scores of students rotated in and out of the IHS gymnasium to read aloud their own written works.
In all, 175 students attended the 12th annual Young Authors Conference, including youngsters from Iola, Humboldt and Marmaton Valley elementary schools.
This year, 573 students wrote books for the Young Authors program, bringing the total of combined entries to 9,704 since the program was founded in 2000.
The guests of honor Saturday were Duncan Edwards, who previously attended the Allen County conference in 2006, and Mackall, a first-time attendee. Both spoke about their life-long love of literature and their origins in writing.
Duncan Edwards, who grew up in England, was introduced into the creative world by her father, himself an author of children’s stories. She noticed a particular difference between children’s books in England and in America. Children’s books in England in the years following World War II were often devoid of pictures, a byproduct of the country’s struggling economy after the war.
The books from America were decidedly different, filled with colorful pictures that drew her in.
As an adult, she was married and came to America. She took on a job at a school library in Virginia, where she met Henry Cole, a science teacher who loved to draw.
Cole and Duncan Edwards collaborated on more than 25 children’s books, including such stalwarts as “Four Famished Foxes and Fosdyke” and “Livingstone Mouse.”
Duncan Edwards and Cole appeared together at the 2006 Young Authors Conference in Allen County.
Cole couldn’t make it this year but agreed to return, along with author Cynthia DeFelice, to the Young Authors Conference in 2012.
SATURDAY’S OTHER AUTHOR, Mackall, grew up in a small town in Missouri.
Her first accolade as a writer came as a 10-year-old, when a story she wrote about her desire to be a batboy for the then-Kansas City Athletics won first prize in a writing contest.
While Mackall was denied an opportunity to be a batboy because of her gender, her love of writing never wavered.
“I never thought that I wouldn’t make it” as a author, she recalled, in part because of the vigor in which she approached the craft.
Mackall, who typically writes three or four projects simultaneously, has authored more than 400 books for children and adults.
On Saturday, she praised the Allen County students for their hard work.
“It’s such a cool thing to see kids who simply love books,” she said. “Kids can do a million things these days, from the Internet to video games that depend on lots of visual images.”
THIRTY-ONE teachers throughout the county were named recipients of the Nancy Wilson Achievement Award, which is given to instructors who help students create Young Authors’ stories. Teachers who garnered at least 80 percent participation from their students in the voluntary program were recognized.