By Jen Bakken
Entering a contest can be exciting and fun, but being declared a winner is something to be proud of.
Sometimes the recognition received is more rewarding than the prize itself, and this is the case for former Delano resident Alison (Weis) Anderson.
Anderson entered the Cheerios “Spoonfuls of Stories” children’s book contest, and in January 2008, was announced as one of two runners up.
This is the first year this contest has taken place, and Cheerios received close to 1,000 stories in the contest, which ran from early June through September 2007.
Their goal was to find “the next great children’s book author” by inviting previously unpublished adult authors to submit their story for a children’s book.
“There is something magical about children’s books, said Ricardo Fernandez, marketing manager for Cheerios. “Cheerios ‘Spoonfuls of Stories’ has spread that magic by distributing more than 25 million books to kids.”
Entries were judged on appropriate story content for children ages four to eight years old, emotional connection, writing quality, uniqueness, and read-aloud potential.
First Book Advisory Boards across the county did the initial judging of entries. A panel of judges that included first-time children’s book author Jacqui Robbins, a children’s librarian, and an independent bookseller, as well as staff from Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing, conducted the final judging.
The prize of $1,000 was nice but having her story recognized was worth much more to Anderson.
“I’ve been sending out manuscripts for a few years now, and I have 20 rejection letters in my file,” Anderson said. “It was so validating to find out that someone appreciated my work.”
Her story entitled, “Sleepy Song” is about the creatures heard at night, and how the sounds they make, when heard together, make a beautiful, comforting song that helps the world to fall asleep.
“Sometimes, my son was scared of noises he heard while trying to fall asleep,” she said. “So, I wrote him a story that explained what these noises were, and how they combined to make a beautiful bedtime song.”
While participating in a writing class at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis, Anderson found a flyer about the Cheerios “Spoonfuls of Stories” children’s book contest. With her passion for writing, it’s no surprise she was interested.
“The flyer also talked about Cheerios collaborating with First Books, which is a national organization whose mission is to provide new books to children who come from low-income families,” she said. “Being a head start teacher, the children in my classes have been recipients of these books. Seeing that connection really sparked my interest.”
Anderson graduated from Delano High School in 1992, and represented the city as Miss Delano from 1992-1993. Her parents, Bill and Jinnelle Weis, still live in Delano, as does does her sister with her husband and son.
“Delano has changed a lot since I moved away,” she said. “But, I still see the remnants of the small town I lived in as a little girl when I go back to visit.”
After high school, Anderson attended school at Concordia College in Moorhead before graduating from Moorhead State University with a degree in speech therapy and early childhood education.
While in college, Anderson spent time writing for and being a copy editor for the university newspapers. She has had an interest in writing since fourth grade, and said one of her teachers, Barb White, encouraged her.
In college Anderson met her husband, and they have been married for nearly eight years. They live in the Wisconsin home Steve grew up in, and he runs his family’s maple syrup business called Anderson’s Maple Syrup.
After teaching pre-school for ten years, Anderson decided she wanted to stay home with their children.
While keeping up with her two children, who are almost five and 18 months, and helping her husband with the family business, this busy mother still finds time to write.
“I write a lot during my kids’ naptime, but whenever I get an idea, I try to jot it down,” she said. “So, that means I’m writing when I’m cooking, folding laundry, and sometimes even when I’m giving the kids a bath.”
Currently she has several finished manuscripts and several unfinished stories, including two young adult novels. In the future, Anderson plans to keep writing and hopes to someday get a call from a publishing company saying they love her story.
Cheerios will be re-launching the children’s book contest to continue support for new authors. For more information, visit www.spoonfulsofstories.com.