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A (gator) girl's got to go to college!

New "Xpressions' page on Mondays will feature kids' creativity.

After a great 17-year run putting your wonderful artwork, poetry and prose into the St. Petersburg Times, Pockets is off to college! The green girl gator, who has been presiding over Alligator Express since 1983, has decided to pursue a degree _ in arts and letters, of course.

Pockets will miss working with you and reading the fan mail full of kind encouragement from teachers and grandparents, many of whom lived in faraway places and received copies of the page from their families here. You were such an inspiration to her, proving how creative and thoughtful kids can be.

Thank goodness, Pockets' artistic tradition will live on, even after she becomes Big Gator on campus.

Beginning Monday, Oct. 30, and once a month thereafter, the Alligator Express page will become Xpressions, a full-page showcase for the art, written work and photography of readers through grade 12. On the last Monday of each month, Xpressions will take the place of our Xpress pages for kids.

Editor Nancy Green, who worked hand in paw with Pockets on Alligator Express, will continue to edit the work you submit to Xpressions. A fun new twist is that each monthly page will have a specific theme on which you should "Xpress" yourself. We will publish the themes ahead of time, and we look forward to theme suggestions from readers.

Ready to Xpress yourself?

Here are the themes and deadlines through the end of the year:

OCTOBER: Halloween (Deadline: Entries must be postmarked by Oct. 9.)

NOVEMBER: What I am most thankful for (Deadline: Entries must be postmarked by Nov. 6.)

DECEMBER: The best gift I ever gave (Deadline: Entries must be postmarked by Dec. 4.)

Please send your work, theme suggestions and comments to: Xpressions, c/o Nancy Green, St. Petersburg Times, 1000 N Ashley Drive, Tampa, FL 33602.

All work must be of your own creation. Artwork must be on white, unlined paper. Be sure to include your name, age, address, ZIP code and phone number, with area code. Stories must be no longer than 150 words.

Keep those stories, poems, works of art and photographs coming!

_ Gretchen Letterman, St. Petersburg Times lifestyles editor