March 9, 2009 – More than 300 young creative writers flocked to the Cumberland University campus Saturday for the Ninth Annual Young Authors Conference. Initially, the children come up with their own ideas for their stories. They then read them to their classmates. The winners who will attend the conference are selected from the schools based on the creativity and effort put into each student's work. Representing Lebanon City and Wilson County schools, the first through sixth graders attending the conference got a chance to read their original compositions to other of the their peers in a classroom at Cumberland in addition to hearing and meeting Kevin Hawkes, a renowned illustrator of more than 35 popular children's books. Speaking to a standing room only crowd in the June and Bill Heydel Fine Arts Building, Hawkes admitted, "When I was a kid and anyone asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I'd have said a cowboy. "I liked doing things with my hands and my dad had a garage full of things that I played around with; and I loved books and loved to draw. But, when I got to college, I still didn't know what I wanted to be or do until one day I was walking down the hall and saw all these illustrations hanging there." Hawkes explained to the young writers that authors often pay attention to their own lives when it comes to ideas, so reminded them to remember things that happen to them along the way. He used various of his books for examples and then went to a sketch pad set on an easel to demonstrate how he worked. "I fool around with drawing 30-40 illustrations until I get an idea for the actual book," he explained. "Sometimes, ideas I get for one book lead to ideas for another book, Also, don't use all your energies on one drawing, because if you do, you'll dry up quickly when it comes to creating other drawings." He then went to a slide presentation of his work showing how he created various characters and situations. His newest book, "Chicken's Cheeks," which covers the behinds of multiple animals in a comical way, had all the kids giggling, while other portions of his talk had them sitting enthralled and quiet. He encouraged the kids to use the library in that "the library was the only source of reading I had because I came from a military family and we moved around continuously." Hawkes also encouraged the authors to keep an idea file so when they hear something unusual, they could jot it down and put it away for future use; and to become a 'what if' person. "When something happens, ask yourself what if it had happened this other way?" "I was encouraged by my second grade art teacher plus my mother and father loved books," he said. "Mom was always reading bedtime stories and Dad entertained us with stories of dragons and giants." Following Hawkes' presentation, the students all congregated in Baird's Chapel to view and buy Hawkes' books plus meet him and get his autograph on the volumes. Maggie Crowell, a sixth grader at Castle Heights Upper Elementary School, was one of those students on hand. Verifying that Hawkes was "pretty good," Crowell said she had written her own idea of an ending to the book/play, "The Giver," which has never had an ending. Suzanne Johnson, a third grader at Southside whose mother, Janie, also teaches there, said she wrote her own story, "Fairy Land Adventure" and illustrated it besides. Shade Anderson, a second grader at Southside, also created his own story, "The Two Tigers." He says he wants to write and illustrate a book one day. Several hundred of the young authors lined up to buy from one to three of Hawkes' books and have them autographed. Some of those titles incuded "Road To Oz," the story of the man who created "Wizard of Oz," "Library Lion," "Chicken Cheeks," Velma Gratche" and "Westlandia," Others include "The Librarian Who Measured the Earth" and "My Little Sister Ate One Hare." The Young Authors Conference is sponsored by the CBRL Group, the Lebanon/Wilson County Chamber of Commerce and Cumberland University.