Healdsburg’s brand new literary laureate with the Healdsburg Writing Guild is getting kids’ imagination and creativity to soar to new heights with a series of young adult books and a free monthly creative writing club for kids at six different branches of the Sonoma County Library.
Windsor-based author of the “Guardian Herd,” and “The Riders of the Realm” series, Jennifer Lynn Alvarez, is the leader of the writing clubs and is the Healdsburg Writing Guild’s new laureate.
In a proclamation read at a Healdsburg City Council meeting last month, Alvarez was named the city’s literary laureate and in embracing her new role, she is working to reiterate the importance of literacy and creativity.
“Obviously literacy is very important to me because I am an author and a parent, so I am very excited,” Alvarez said of her role. “With all of the digital media and competition for books, I think it is more important than ever to focus on print and literacy, we want to keep kids and adults reading,” she said.
In addition, the role of “laureate” also entails outreach work and attending guild events.
“The guild and I are talking about how to bring younger people to their literary salon on the third Sunday of every month where any age can come and read their work there. It is a great place to practice and get response to your work. We also want to see what other events the guild can sponsor with other types of publications,” she said.
For instance, the guild is looking at creating a collection of works for adults and kids from Sonoma County authors.
Another way Alvarez is getting younger kids involved in the literary world is through her writing clubs.
She teaches writing clubs at the Healdsburg, Cloverdale, Windsor, Sebastopol, Rincon Valley and Rohnert Park libraries. Each workshop focuses on a different aspect of creative writing. For example, one month they might explore story plotting or character development.
At the Healdsburg Public Library, Alvarez has been running the writing sessions for two years. Healdsburg children’s librarian Charity Anderson asked her to lead the class after Alvarez visited the library’s tween book club and signed copies for the tween readers.
“Our group last year was about 13 kids, we really had a dedicated group that was coming and parents had a lot of great feedback on having an afterschool program that focused on literature. This other group is a little bit smaller, but I’ve always heard great feedback from both the kids and parents,” Anderson said.
Specifically at the Healdsburg library, Alvarez had kids create their own stories, which at the end of the year were put together and bound for the students to take home.
She also had students works on villain character development and had them brainstorm the backstory of their favorite villain.
“She gets their brains thinking in different ways,” Anderson said of Alvarez’s lessons. Another way Alvarez gets kids’ brains thinking is through her two book series, which follow stories of young winged horses in fantastic settings.
Although the “Riders of the Realm,” and the “Guardian Herd” weren’t published until much later in her career, Alvarez says she was interested in creative writing ever since she was a little girl.
“It seemed like I was born wanting to write and as soon as I could write, I was writing stories,” Alvarez recalled.
She wrote her first novel, “The Spotless Forest,” when she was 19, however, publishers rejected her work believing it was too long for middle grade readers — this was prior to the release of “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone,” which was 223 pages.
Later, while Alvarez worked in the finance sector, she continued to write and eventually produced the “The Guardian Heard” and “The Riders of the Realm” series.
“I continued writing but for a while I wasn’t seeking publication because I was still a little intimidated by the process,” she said.
Before the “Guardian Herd,” she created a self-published kids book called “The Pet Washer.”
She said she started writing a vampire book to get publishers interested, however, they didn’t even read it due to the overpopulation of vampire genre books.
“I then wrote ‘Starfire’ just for fun for my daughter and when I finished I thought, ‘Maybe this one is the one.’”
She sold it to Harper Collins and had only written the one book at the time, yet they asked for four more.
Now, she tries to offer some inspiration and skill to those interested in writing, which she says a lot of the participants in the club are serious about pursuing.
When asked what her favorite aspect about the writing club is, she added, “In these kids I see myself … and I just love seeing their creativity.”
Each class is one hour and is open to kids ages 9 to 12.
For a complete list of upcoming class dates, times and locations visit: https://bit.ly/2F4Kj6w.