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St. Petersburg girl launches contest-winning book 'Tampa Bay from A to Z'

Author Noelle Schneider, 13, of St. Petersburg signs a book for Kathryn Bond, 12, at the Florida Blue Center on Wednesday evening in Tampa. Noelle’s contest-winning Tampa Bay from A to Z looks at the area’s history and landmarks with anecdotes and rhymes.

WILLIE J. ALLEN JR. | Times

Author Noelle Schneider, 13, of St. Petersburg signs a book for Kathryn Bond, 12, at the Florida Blue Center on Wednesday evening in Tampa. Noelle’s contest-winning Tampa Bay from A to Z looks at the area’s history and landmarks with anecdotes and rhymes.

Achieving your dream at 13 seems to be a heady experience.

Already a writer who kept a diary for at least three years and, before that, composed essays for school and short stories for herself, Noelle Schneider found out about a book-writing contest just three weeks before the deadline.

She worked six to eight hours a day writing and polishing rhymes for Tampa Bay A to Z.

And she won.

On Wednesday night, when the St. Petersburg girl's book was unveiled at a launch party, she was beaming.

"I really want to write more books," she said. "When I was little I wanted to write, so it's been a set thing."

Noelle is the winner of a contest for Tampa Bay middle-schoolers hosted by the Books By Kids program and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida.

Teen and preteen writers submitted their entries to Books By Kids, a Florida nonprofit that produces the books with illustrations drawn by children connected with children's hospitals. Then it gives proceeds from the sale of the book to the hospitals.

Tampa Bay A to Z is the third book from the organization, which previously used Jacksonville and Chattanooga, Tenn., as inspirations.

Local winners were announced in February. Noelle's work then was taken to All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg and St. Joseph's Children's Hospital in Tampa to be illustrated. The youngest artist was 2 years old.

Aaliyah Williams, 8, of St. Petersburg wants to be an artist and a doctor when she grows up. She heard about the book through her mother's job at All Children's and illustrated the letter X.

"I like to draw cars and fish and stuff, and I like to draw dolphins," she said.

Aaron Jackson, 7, of St. Petersburg drew vegetables for the V. He professed his love for tomatoes: "I eat big tomatoes like apples," he said.

The children said they wanted to meet Noelle, the girl who gave them the words that got their art published. They got the chance at Wednesday's celebration, held at the Florida Blue Center on West Shore Boulevard in Tampa.

Just weeks before the deadline, Noelle's mom, Faith Schnei­der, had spotted the contest in the St. Petersburg Times.

"I was writing before I even finished reading," Noelle joked.

She wrote and rewrote rhymes under contest guidelines.

Now her mom can spout one almost as second nature: There is a bridge in Tampa Bay that's named for George S. Gandy. It links Tampa to St. Petersburg, which comes in very handy.

"It's become like an inside joke to us and we laugh and say it every time we go over the Gandy Bridge," Faith Schneider, 41, said.

The pithy rhymes cover a range of topics from landmarks such as Fort De Soto to Tampa Bay events like the Strawberry Festival.

Research for each letter was done on off-hours from Noelle's home-schooling classes, said her mother, who is her teacher.

She saved to buy a laptop and now it's nearly impossible to keep her from writing, Schneider said.

Noelle said she'd love tackle another children's book because it's a medium she found fun, but ultimately would like to write her own novel.

"It's a lot of hard work," she said.

St. Petersburg girl launches contest-winning book 'Tampa Bay from A to Z' 08/10/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, August 10, 2011 11:17pm]
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