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Kid Writers Tell Stories of Animals and the Afterlife at Literary Fest

 Author Cherise Li, 7, reads at last year's Fort Greene Summer Literary Festival.
Author Cherise Li, 7, reads at last year's Fort Greene Summer Literary Festival.
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Melvin Reeves

FORT GREENE — Writers as young as 7 will take the stage this month in Fort Greene to read their own stories — telling tales that range from narratives of hero lizards to depictions of the afterlife. 

The young authors, who range from 7 to 18 years old, will read from their works at the 12th Annual Fort Greene Summer Literary Festival on Aug. 20 alongside a group of all-female published authors.

The budding writers have been prepping for this year’s festival all summer at the New York Writers Coalition’s summer-long series of outdoor creative writing workshops in Fort Greene Park.

For Charise Li, 7, exercises like free writing have helped her build up her material for the festival.

“You can write about whatever you want and you can just think of different things at any time you want,” she said. “There’s so many things to think of.”

Li, who’s in her third year with the program, said her favorite topic is animals, citing a poem she wrote about a bird who was locked in a cage, but was freed by a lizard who used his tongue to pick the lock. 

Although she still gets stage fright performing at the annual fest, she said she’s looking forward to joining her fellow scribes this weekend.

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Young writers from the New York Writer's Coalition will read from their work at this year's Fort Greene Summer Literary Festival. (Credit: Paula Vlodkowsky)

“You can tell everyone your stories,” Li continued. “You can find the stories that many different young writers can think of and make.”

For other young authors, the workshops have helped them explore broader ideas like death and the afterlife.

Yuri Cortez-Moore, 11, said he isn’t religious but is still fascinated by the idea of what happens to us after death.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen,” he said. “What if I’m going to the light or the darkness or the red or the yellow. God or the devil can be any color — black or white or purple or green.”

Cortez-Moore said that he writes so he can see his ideas in print.

“It’s how I feel and what comes out of my brain,” he said. 

“I like that you can be free and do whatever you want in it. Whether it’s you, or a character, or an object — even something that isn’t living — you can give it a place, or give it a time in life itself or in death.”

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Zoe Sheares, 14, will be reading from her work at this month's Fort Greene Summer Literary Festival. (Credit: Paula Vlodkowsky)

In the end, the festival is all about sharing ideas, said Zoe Sheares, a 14-year-old who has been in Writers Coalition since she was 6.

"Every year that I've been there I've had a really great experience," she said. "I've gotten to meet new people, I get to hear what other people are interested in, and I get to hear creativity."

Among this year’s festival headliners is Kaitlyn Greenidge, author of "We Love You, Charlie Freeman," who has led the NYWC workshops since 2008. She’ll be joined by Nicole Dennis-Benn, author of "Here Comes the Sun," and Yaa Gyasi, author of "Homegoing."

The annual festival is put on through a partnership between the NYWC, Akashic Books and Greenlight Bookstore.

This year’s festival starts at 2 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 20, at BRIC, 647 Fulton Street.