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Bookstore Lab Molds Young Readers Into Writers

LARCHMONT, N.Y. -- Writing short stories is just a chore for many students, but Julia Lehman and Kathryn McSherry are serious about publishing a book. The pair will write and present a short story during the Writopia Lab at the Voracious Reader.

"They really help the kids take that next step if that's something they want to pursue," said Lehman's mother Melinda.

Lehman, 12, sees herself writing young adult fiction. The Harry Potter fan is part of a five-day intensive writing workshop held at the Voracious Reader bookstore on Palmer Avenue for three hours a day. The small groups, which range from three to six kids between eight and 18, began the week with a writing exercise to get the juices flowing.

One person was given a card with something or someone on it and had to begin writing a story about it. They then passed it on to the other kids, who continued writing the story until it was finished.

"It gave me an idea of what to do for a story," McSherry said.

Writopia Lab is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization founded in New York City in April of 2007. All of its instructors are published authors, including Lena Roy, who developed the Westchester branch in the Spring of 2010 and hosts labs in Katonah and Larchmont.

"I fell in love with the Voracious Reader and I think it's a great place to hold workshops," Roy said. "I love that we're marrying these two things together, the love of reading and the love of writing. It's a perfect match."

Roy, who held her first Lab at the Voracious Reader in late June, allows the kids to write independently early in the week, then critiques their work later. Rather than give a lecture, she has the students do writing exercises to spark an idea, then lets them pursue it independently.

"We learn the rules of writing as we go along," said Roy, a Katonah resident and mother of three. "It makes it fun for the kids. It's something that they want to do rather than something they have to do."

Lehman's idea focuses on the classic premise of "the grass is always greener on the other side." Lehman, McSherry, and every participant of the Writopia Lab this summer will present their completed work sometime in September at the Voracious Reader.

Have you written short stories, poems, or other forms of writing? What is your favorite genre? Comment below, or join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter .

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