The Author's Tea is a monthly event at Longleaf Elementary School, minus the hot brew. The afternoon gathering serves up a snack of cookies and cool lemonade — along with some pretty good literature and a special certificate.
Stories abound as one by one, students from the New Port Richey school test their nerve to stand before their parents and other young writers to read their tales. Ten-year-old Mea Futterman shared her The Scariest Day at the Beach, which may or may not have included the adventurous sighting of a giant squid in the shallow waters off the Hudson coast. Fellow fifth-grader Cole Hudson, 10, read from his impressive fiction collection his version of an old folktale, How the Tiger Got Its Stripes (would you believe it involved a bucket of paint?!). There were a couple of primers — one on 6-year-old Joshua Kissinger's favorite pastime of baseball, and another written by a somewhat shy first-grader, Jocelyn Candiloro, 6, on how to make a snowman complete with a peppermint candy smile. Other stories were about princess adventures, the friendship between a fox and a hare and why a family vacation in the snow would make for the best time ever.
Not everyone is invited to bring their parents to the media center to share the stories they've penned, said literacy coach Dolores Halkitis, who oversees the monthly tea.
"It's a very big honor," she said.
Only 16 students are selected each month — some because they have showed great improvement; others because they have produced an impressive amount of quality writing. Often they show a knack for including details or using metaphors and similes. Some are very persuasive in their slant. And there's more than a few talented illustrators, too.
"It's wonderful to see," said Mea's mom, Tisa Futterman. "They get some public speaking experience and they get to share their stories."
"It's a little scary to get up there and read your story," Mea admitted, as she snacked on cookies afterward.
But probably not as scary as seeing a giant squid at the beach.