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Young authors receive motivation for literary futures
Young Authors 3
Young author Juliana Presto shares her own experience publishing a novel at the 17th annual Young Authors Literary Conference Awards Brunch on Friday at Gratton Elementary School. - photo by ALYSSON AREDAS / The Journal

“When you hear the word ‘author’ you may only associate it with adults, but what many people don’t realize is that anyone with a love of writing and a lot of perseverance can become an author if they set their mind to it—no matter what age they are.”

These words were spoken by eighth grader and published author Juliana Presto, who attended the 17th annual Young Authors’ Literary Conference Awards Brunch on Friday to discuss her own writing career that began at 13 with her first novel, “Fire and Ice: The Awakening.”

“I don’t know if any of you are inspired to become authors, but what you need to know is that it takes a lot of dedication and a mindset that you’re going to achieve your goal,” said Presto.

During her speech, Presto revealed the creative process behind writing a novel, including time spent with her parents editing and formatting her work and her decision to self-publish through CreateSpace, an Amazon company. 

“I was so happy to see how everything turned out,” said Presto. “The feeling of seeing that my work was right there was amazing.”

Presto is currently working on the sequel for “Fire and Ice: The Awakening,” with an estimated publishing date sometime in the fall. “Fire and Ice: The Awakening” is available online at,, or the CreateSpace e-store.

During the brunch, Presto was also joined by fellow young author Matthew Berlin, who self-published his first novel, “Embark”, through CreateSpace when he was 16 years old. “Embark” is the first book in the “Legends of Lustria” series.

Berlin engaged students in attendance by describing his book as a mixture of “Harry Potter,” “Star Wars,” “Chronicles of Narnia,” and other popular titles. Similar to Presto, he reported that he is also in the midst of writing his sequel.

“Push forward and never give up on your dreams—whether it’s being an author or whatever else you aspire to be when you grow up,” said Berlin.

Berlin’s book, “Embark,” is available at Yesterday’s Books in Modesto. More information can be found at

Presto and Berlin were merely the featured speakers during the 17th annual Young Authors’ Literary Conference Awards Brunch, which drew in approximately 150 middle school students from sites including Hickman Charter School, Waterford Junior High, and Gratton Elementary School.

“These two are locally published authors and this is where you could be going right now to become published authors yourselves,” said Hickman Charter School teacher Tracy Cline.

The award brunch was the culminating event of the 17th annual Young Authors’ Literary Conference, an occasion in February which gave students the opportunity to write a piece. Upon completion, both adults and peers critiqued the finished products and resulting awards were doled out during Friday’s ceremony.

 “This is an opportunity for them to learn how to be a good writer and hopefully learn more about the joys of writing,” said Gratton Elementary School teacher Rexanne Jensen.

“We’ve always taught writing skills in school, but this raises the bar and allows them to be part of a community of aspiring authors who see writing as a potential career,” added Hickman Charter School teacher Bill Richards.

During the awards ceremony, students were honored with gold, silver and bronze medals or trophies for stories that prevailed as the best within a specified genre, and for authors who wrote the best piece at their respective school.