- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 6, 2002

Amanda Ownby, a fresh-faced teen, juggles ballet classes, piano lessons, homework and school on any given day.One day, the 14-year-old Springfield resident decided to take time off to write a children's book. Her science teacher had announced a national contest on energy conservation with a trip to Salt Lake City to watch the 2002 Winter Olympics as the prize.
Amanda says she decided to enter because the topic "looked like the most fun."
The ideas came to her, sometimes even in the middle of a boring class. Then, one night, she sat down at her computer. "Energy makes the world go round," she typed. "It is used to do things like make sound."
She completed the book in the form of a long poem in a single night, and illustrated it with computer art over the next week.
Earlier this year, "Helping the World by Conserving Energy," won the Igniting Creative Energy Challenge organized by the National Energy Association, a nonprofit organization that works to teach children about the importance of conserving energy.
Amanda's entry beat out those of 600 middle-schoolers from around the country who participated with various projects.
As winner, she will have a chance to share her message on the environment with other children when she tours some local elementary schools and reads her book to them. Linda Doyle, her science teacher at Lake Braddock Secondary School in Burke, is trying to get the book published so more children and their parents can learn about the importance of conserving energy together, Amanda says.
Those who have watched Amanda grow say her victory is no surprise. "She has always had an active imagination," says her mother, Linda Ownby. "She can tell whoppers with a straight face and people just believe her."
Such as the time she was at elementary school and told other children that she was the daughter of the Queen of England. The mother of a classmate found it impossible to convince her daughter otherwise, Mrs. Ownby says with a laugh
Another time, she remembers that Amanda made an Easter house with toilet rolls. "She always comes up with these ideas … she never needs any help," Mrs. Ownby says.
Amanda says she learned a great deal from writing and researching her book. She confesses she was not environmentally aware until she started her research.
"Now I think along those lines all the time. I am careful not to leave the lights on," she says.
Her poem often uses humor to better convey the serious message.
"To ensure that we continue to find more energy before it's all gone, try saving it at home, for instance, by hand-cutting your lawn," goes one line, with an illustration of a boy lying down on the grass and cutting the lawn with a pair of scissors.
Although young, she already is making a deep impression on those she meets. Michelle Tanem, marketing manager of Johnson Controls Inc., which sponsored the contest, spent time with Amanda during her trip to the Olympics in February. "She is a darling person, a wonderful young woman," Miss Tanem says.
Amanda's entry in the contest stood out, Miss Tanem says, because it was "simple, yet a wonderful example of what she had learned about energy conservation." Miss Tanem says she herself had learned much from the book.
She says one of the things that clinched the prize for Amanda was that she wanted both parents and children to learn together about energy conservation.
Amanda, whose ambition is to someday work in the field of marketing and design for an advertising agency, says she got the idea of writing a children's book in class.
"Earlier that week, in English class, we had looked at the Magic School Bus. When I saw it, I thought, I can do it. I can write a children's book," she says.
The best part of winning the contest, she says, was visiting the Olympics. She displays the mementos she brought back, including several pins she traded in the Olympic tradition, and a white T-shirt bearing the Games' logo. "We had to line up at the store for four hours to get that," she says.
Her eyes sparkle as she remembers her four days living in Park City. "I met Katie King [who was on the women's ice hockey team at the Games] and also saw a lot of the bobsled people," she says. She says the most fun was watching the women's final in the Super-G, an alpine skiing event.
"It was also fun going to the downtown area where they had a lot of shops and big parties and stuff going on."
Amanda has tasted success, but she says she isn't sure she'll try her hand at another book. "I will probably enter more contests, but I am not sure if I want to do another book."
But even the camera-shy teen is not quite averse to the fame that has accompanied her victory.
"I am not used to having all this publicity having the whole school know your name," she says with a smile. "It has all been really interesting."

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