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      The community effort behind the Young Authors Conference

      Three-thousand elementary school students are gathering at Northern Michigan University this week for the Young Authors Conference. The annual event involves nearly every school in Marquette and Alger counties.

      Students learned from this year's featured author, a poet, Kristine O'Connell George. The conference includes many forms of literacy, and it takes a community effort.

      The lecture halls in Jamrich Hall are filled with anxious students throughout the week. Second-grader Kaelin Keys explained why she enjoys writing books.

      "Because at the end you get to write stuff about you sometimes, and you get to draw the pictures, and it's just fun telling people about stuff," said Keys.

      Students at the Young Authors Conference brought a book they wrote themselves in school, according to co-director, Trish Sippola.

      "Students have prepared a book to share with their pen-pal from around the area here, and they will share their book," said Sippola.

      Keys, a student at Aspen Ridge Elementary School, wrote her book about moving to Michigan from Kansas.

      "It was kind of scary because I didn't know what they were going to think about it," she said about sharing.

      A day at the conference also included time with community volunteers. Jim Edwards from the U.P. Children's Museum led a session on poetry and storytelling. Other students were led in songs and dancing by the Double Trouble DJs of Marquette.

      Aspen Ridge second-grader Nick Sazlweledo said he really liked the DJs.

      "I was having fun and watching them do silly stuff," said Sazlweledo.

      Many volunteers make the conference possible, including many retired teachers and the education department at NMU.

      "It just adds the importance of literacy in our community," Sippola said. "Our community here in Marquette has been very good at volunteering for Young Authors over the past 30 years; they've been wonderful, and it just adds an extra impact to the students."

      The conference continues on Wednesday and Thursday. This year's featured author, Kristine O'Connell George, is giving a presentation and signing books on Tuesday night at 6:30 p.m. at the Peter White Public Library.