The write stuff | SierraSun.com

The write stuff

Renée Shadforth
Photo by Josh Miller/Sierra Sun 10-year-old Kiersten Knoppel sits in front of the computer monitor displaying "Dragon Tears," a story of hers that won a national first place prize this year.
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A successful writer can find inspiration in just about anything, and Truckee 10-year-old Kiersten Knoppel is no exception.Knoppel used her dog, Cody, as inspiration for the main character her short story “Dragon Tears.” The story is about a motherless girl whose sensitive nose allowed her to know how others were feeling. The story recently garnered the fifth grader a grand prize in the Scholastic Book Club’s Fantasy Writing Contest.”I was trying to think of something original,” Knoppel said. “I thought of my dog, and how he goes through the whole world with his nose.”

“Dragon Tears” was selected as one of 10 winners in the contest, which had more than 4,000 entries from across the United States. Knoppel’s work will be published in a book, which will be available nationwide through the book club in June.Knoppel is self-admittedly competitive, whether its in her writing or a soccer game. She has been entering contests since age 5, and the Scholastic contest is her first big win.”I always want to see what can come of my writing,” she said.When she found out she had won, she said “I was very excited. It changed my whole week.”

The accomplishment didn’t come without a lot of hard work. Knoppel revised her story 20 or so times before submitting it. The re-writing process, which was new to Knoppel, came through the prodding of her Truckee Elementary School teacher Candy Blesse, who encouraged Knoppel to enter the contest.”Kiersten grabbed hold of [the contest] and did an incredible job,” Blesse said. “I think it’s been exciting to watch Kiersten celebrate her success quietly; she has been very humble about it.”Knoppel has been engaged in the genre of fantasy writing since before she could write. Her mother, Kim Bateman, told her fantasy stories early in her life. Bateman said that when her daughter was four years old she could recite the stories from beginning to end after only hearing them once.

Later in life, Knoppel, like many children her age, was exposed to Harry Potter books. She also adores the work of Jenny Nimmo and Cornelia Funke, who both happened to be judges in the Scholastic contest.Betsy Howie of Scholastic Books Clubs said there was a lot of interest in the fantasy writing contest, especially considering how complicated the genre can be.”To have risen to the top of this pile is pretty impressive,” Howie said. “There were some incredibly good stories with this contest.”Now, Knoppel is working on publishing her own book with the “Dragon Tears” story. She wants to pen a longer version of the story as a novella. She also wants to publish a version of the story with her own drawings for younger children.