SPRING HILL — Empty chairs lined the stage at Westside Elementary School, awaiting the nervous, but excited, children about to read aloud at the Author's Tea.
After the authors were settled in, one at a time, they stood before a microphone and told their tales.
They spoke of bad hair days, and hamsters and green frogs. Of aliens, and future careers and how much they liked their school.
The event, which started last year, is held once a month so students selected by their teachers can read stories they have written. The teachers will choose a child for any number of reasons, including good writing or just for an extra dose of encouragement.
The readings will be held at night this year to accommodate working parents.
Fourth-grade teacher Melissa Tomlinson coordinates the event to highlight student-written work. "We want to encourage the children to be excited about writing," she said. "It makes them want to work to be better writers."
The program is open to students in first though fifth grades. Tomlinson said writing is a focus in fourth grade, but the teas aim to get students excited about writing early.
Last year, most teachers missed the event because they sent only one student from their class and then had to stay with the rest of their students.
Authors arrived at this year's inaugural session on Sept. 28 and one by one stood before a microphone to read their stories.
Danielle Linares told about how she would like to be a lawyer when she grows up. Brittany Grenz and Ashley McDonald both read stories with a common theme, a little green tree frog.
In Mya Ballew's story, she woke up one day as her hamster. Hailey Barker read about how her worst hair day turned into her best hair day. Destiny Walker's story was about an alien, and Clayton Annis explained why he likes Westside Elementary School.
Amanda Schurecht's story was a poem about her cool school. Savannah Smith had written about what she likes to do after school. First-graders Gabriel Preece and Jennifer Rodriguez had short stories. Jennifer's story was about playing soccer with her brother, and Gabriel's was about tacos.
The children all received certificates and goody bags that included coupons from September's sponsor, Texas Roadhouse. The School Advisory Council also contributed to the bags.
David Reinbolt, Ashley McDonald's father, was at this most recent tea with Ashley's sister Alex Reinbolt.
"I thought it was neat. I thought it was a good experience for the kids," he said, adding he enjoyed the "different talents that were out there."