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News : Local Apr 12, 2013 - 6:34:47 AM

Award winning children’s author to teach beginner's writing

By Westport Writers’ Workshop

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Christine Pakkala (Credit: Kristin Hoebermann)
Westport children’s author Christine Pakkala, 2013 winner of the Ladies Home Journal essay contest and author of the three-book Last But Not Least Lola (Boyd’s Mill Press) series of children’s books, will lead a workshop designed to teach would-be children’s authors how to launch their own writing careers at the Westport Writers’ Workshop later this month.

“Writing for Children: An Introduction for the Absolute Beginner” will take place on Saturday, April 27 from 9 a.m. to 12 noon at the Westport Writers’ Workshop, 3 Sylvan Road South, Westport. Registration is open to the public, and pre-registration is required.

Pakkala, a former Fulbright Scholar who receive her Master of Fine Arts degree from the prestigious Iowa Writers Workshop, has only in the last two years finally achieved the publishing success for which she has long toiled. She attributes her recent success to her association with the Westport Writers’ Workshop, where since 2008 she has taken workshops, received coaching and mentoring, and honed her writing skills. It was also where she gained the confidence to advance on the path to publication success.

“I’ve had Pulitzer-prize winning writing teachers, but the best advice came from Westport Writers’ Workshop teachers Jessica Bram and Suzanne Hoover,” said Pakkala. “The showed me that writing is a process. And they taught me to first listen to myself, then listen to others.”

In addition to her multi-children’s book deal with Boyd’s Mill Press, Pakkala was recently named first prize winner in the renowned Ladies Home Journal essay contest for her essay “Costa Rica.” This highly competitive national contest, which receives thousands of submissions per year, carries a $3,000 award plus publication in the June issue of the magazine.

Christine Pakkala and her husband, attorney and author Cameron Stracher, moved to Westport with their two children in 2001 from New York City, she had been a seventh and ninth-grade English teacher at the Horace Mann School in Riverdale. Although Pakkala had long dreamed of becoming a published author and had penned a novel, memoir, and signed with a literary agent, her work never received recognition.

In Westport, Pakkala’s interest in writing for children took root when she began writing stories for her son’s kindergarten class. She wrote tales incorporating his classmates as characters, then would visit to read them aloud. Her son’s elementary school teachers, whom she found warm and welcoming, encouraged her. It was then that Pakkala’s quirky but beloved central character, Lola Zuckerman, was born, leading to her current middle grade fiction series, Last But Not Least Lola.

“Lola’s stories are pure fun to write...I love being in her world,” said Pakkala. The first installment, Last but Not Least Lola: Going Green” is slated for a Fall 2013 release from Boyd’s Mill Press followed by two more in the Lola series, in addition to a Young Adult (YA) novel.

In addition to her writing, Pakkala teaches creative writing to children. Since 2012, she has been a teacher for the NYC-based Writopia Lab, an organization that offers fun, creative writing workshops to children age 8 to 18 at the Westport Writers’ Workshop and other locations. Pakkala also writes profiles for law school magazines and is at work on her memoir.

In 2012, Westport Writers’ Workshop founder/director, Jessica Bram, recruited Pakkala to lead “Writing for Children: An Introduction for the Absolute Beginner,” a one-day workshop designed for the novice. First conducted in March, 2012, it received much praise.

“Christine was excellent and the class was filled with a wealth of information. Christine sparked my interest in a genre I had never considered,” said workshop participant, Lorraine Danza. “Both the workshop and leader were excellent and I would recommend the class to others.”

“I thought that Ms. Pakkala was terrific,” said Robin Zella. “I was really pleased with the structure of the program…Having the opportunity to listen to others read aloud was incredibly energizing and having a dialog about the work was wonderful too!”

In her workshop on April 27, Pakkala will show participants how to draw from their own experiences, interests or family histories to create a unique children’s story of their own. She will outline ingredients for a winning children’s book, explain the difference among genres, and cover topics such as character development, plot, and setting. Students are encouraged to come equipped with specific ideas/themes, writing materials and laptops to enable them to start their projects.

Originally hailing from Lewiston, Idaho, Ms. Pakkala attended The University of Idaho, where she obtained her BA in English and Journalism before going on to receive her MFA in poetry at the famed Iowa Writers Workshop.

The cost to attend the April 27 “Writing for Children: An Introduction for the Absolute Beginner” is $125 or $110 for WWW members. Online pre-registration is required and details can be found at or by calling (203) 227-3250. The Westport Writers’ Workshop is located at 3 Sylvan Road South, Westport.

Established in 2004, The Westport Writers‘ Workshop offers adult workshops in fiction, nonfiction, memoir, and writing for children, designed to nurture creativity, inspire imagination and develop the writing craft. New offerings in 2013 include Introduction to Creative Writing, Mystery Writing 101, and The Healing Art of Writing. The Westport Writers’ Workshop offers an optional annual membership which includes free admission to events, monthly open mic nights, a weekly one-hour group creativity jumpstart session, workshop discounts and other benefits.

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