Students welcome author

T-L Photo/DYLAN McKENZIE Author Jennifer Maschari gives some guidance to a sixth-grader at Leona Middle School on Friday. Students worked on a small writing challenge, incorporating different elements into a short story.

SHADYSIDE — Students at Leona Middle School in Shadyside learned about creating compelling characters and stories on Friday, as a visiting author gave them some tips of the trade.

Jennifer Maschari is an Ohio-based author who grew up loving stories and reading from a young age. Although she had dreams of writing, she got a letter from an author she admired and was encouraged by a teacher, and she said that was where she began working to turn her desire into a reality.

“Those two things set me on the course,” Maschari said.

Maschari is a published children’s author, with two books out so far: “The Remarkable Journey of Charlie Price” and “Things That Surprise You.” In addition, she travels around to middle schools, helping pass along some of her writing techniques to young students across the Buckeye State. Maschari joked that she never really left middle school — she attended one as a student, taught in one as a teacher and now travels to them to speak. Maschari’s activities caught the attention of Leona Middle School Title teacher Kelly Hoepfner, who decided to invite the author to come visit the school.

“We’re trying to promote literacy and bring some things to the kids,” Hoepfner said. “She is from Ohio, too, so we’re excited she was available.”

T-L Photo/DYLAN McKENZIE Kelly Hoepfner, Title teacher at Leona Middle School in Shadyside, left, stands with author Jennifer Maschari. Maschari is a children’s author and visited Shadyside on Friday to work on various writing techniques with students.

Maschari spent the day teaching different writing techniques to the various classes, giving different tips to each class. Third-graders learned about what goes into a memorable character, fourth-graders examined the journey of a story from idea to a finished product. Sixth-grade students participated in a writing challenge after Maschari explained what elements go into a good story.

She also picked four mystery “ingredients” that students had to incorporate into their writing — a letter, a watch, a robot and a button with a trilobite on it that read “hero.” The students had roughly 12 minutes to compose a short story, bending to their task eagerly.

“They’ve been great so far,” Maschari said. “They are very enthusiastic and eager.”

The students seemed to really enjoy and benefit from the exercises, according to Hoepfner, who said she will look into attracting more guest in the future to Leona Middle School.

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