Features 03/24/00

Prize-winning teen author sticks with book ideas until the big one bites her

By Ruth Russell

NORTH LOGAN -- Watch out, Aesop. Here comes Katie Beck. And if you're not careful, this teen-ager's collection of fables just might surpass yours.

Beck, an 18-year-old from Smithfield, spoke to youngsters at North Logan City library Tuesday. But she wasn't there just to advertise her brand new illustrated children's book, The Moas. She was there to teach them the parable behind it.

"You've got to use your talents, or you'll lose them," said Beck, the winner of the 1999 "Written and Illustrated By . . . Awards Contest," a competition solely for young writers. Her winning book, The Moas, is based on a group of birds that originated in Australia. The birds were born with the capacity to hunt and fly, but because of laziness, they lost these talents over time, and have become extinct.

"It's sort of a parable for life," said Beck. "Use all of your special gifts."

Although most think that Beck's career began when she received that phone call about the award in September, she believes it really began when she was a toddler.

"I made the most magnificent discovery," said Beck. "A red magic marker to color with!"

Luckily, Beck's mother supported this talent and provided her with all of the paper she wanted. She continued drawing and storytelling for her family and friends until she was in grade school. That was when she heard about the "Written and Illustrated By . . . Awards Contest."

"I knew that writers were never looked at until they were adults, and I was only in third grade," said Beck. "I didn't want to wait that long, so I entered."

Beck entered four books before The Moas, each one with a different parable or fable, but all of them were sent back to her.

"Each time I would want to give up, but each time the contest came around again, I couldn't help myself from entering," said Beck.

However, her hard work and talent finally paid off. Her book won, she was flown to work with publishers in Kansas City, and 7,500 copies were printed, with four more printings in the plans.

So has this teen-ager struck it rich? Unfortunately, not all fame brings wealth.

"I make about as much as my friends that are flipping hamburgers," said Beck.

So what advice does Beck have for others youths with high aspirations?

"Persistence," said Beck. "Ideas are kind of like mosquitoes, they're always flying around. Eventually one will fly up your nose."


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