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Seventh-grader wins a national writing award

Jamie Mera has enjoyed creative writing for as long as she can remember. She started writing fiction in the first grade.

Six years later, the Adams Middle School seventh-grader has won a national writing award, taking first place in the National Woman's Club Youth Writing Contest.

The winning entry, "Old Man Jack," tells the tale of a lonely 12-year-old California girl who becomes the unlikely pen pal of a 78-year-old man living in Maine.

The idea for the intergenerational friendship came from Jamie's volunteer work at a nursing home.

"I learned and thought a lot about old/young relationships there, and the story grew from that," said Jamie, who also is 12.

After Jamie won at the county level for the second straight year (her 9-year-old sister Nicole also won the county award for her age group), the Lutz-Land O'Lakes Woman's Club forwarded the story to the state level. In May, just as the school year ended, Jamie heard she had won the Florida award.

Marilyn Wannamaker, president of the Lutz-Land O'Lakes Woman's Club, attended the Woman's Club National Convention in Kansas City earlier this month. It was there that the national award was announced.

"I had no idea it was coming," Wannamaker said. "It's our first national award, and we're so proud of Jamie."

The Lutz women's club honored Jamie and other winners at a banquet attended by Jamie's parents, JoAnne and Barry Mera of Carrollwood's Hamlet section; and grandparents Pat and Joan Marra, who made the trip all the way from Delaware.

Jamie, who aspires to a career in broadcast journalism, is exceptionally well-rounded. In addition to her writing and academic success, she is a highly ranked tennis player and just completed her year-long term as senior titleholder in "Pre-Teen Florida," a scholarship and recognition program.

She offers this advice to aspiring young writers: "If you have an idea, follow it out. Even if you don't like it, others might. If you don't try, you'll never know if you have the talent."