Cincy is Creative: Author & blogger Donna Labermeier launches reading contest for teens

MONTGOMERY, Ohio - Cincinnati and the greater Tri-State region are home to people who excel in artistic and other creative disciplines. Each week, we’ll focus on a creative individual who is bringing new perspectives to our lives and enriching our cultural diversity.

Who: Donna Labermeier
What: Self-published author
Where: Montgomery, Ohio
Latest: “The Healers: Waters of Life”
Greatest: The Healers Trilogy $25,000 Fight for Teen Literacy Project

Author Donna Labermeier wants her three-book series ,The Healers Triology, to spread positive energy to teens, libraries, and schools everywhere. That’s why she is sponsoring a $25,000 Teen Reading Contest.

From now until May 16, students who read one or both of the first two books (“The Healers” or “The Healers: Waters of Life”) can qualify to win cash or prizes for themselves, their schools, or their libraries. All they have to do is create a billboard, video, speech, essay, poem, song, or commercial based on the book and its characters.

The Healers Trilogy is a young-adult fantasy adventure series about a group of teenage heroes who live in separate countries but share a common destiny to heal the world. The first two books are available as in a paperback form or Kindle edition on Amazon. A paperback version of “The Healers: Waters of Life” can be ordered through the Barnes & Noble website. Donna plans to release the third book in the next few months.

The Fight for Teen Literacy

Free copies (or downloads) of Donna Labermeier’s first two books are available to any teen, school, or library that wants to enter the Teen Reading Contest.

  • First place ($5,000), second place ($3,000), and third place ($1,000) prizes will be awarded to winners in two categories: 6th through 8th Grade and 9th through 12th grade.
  • Each cash prize will be split equally between the student and his or her school or library.
  • Bonus prizes, including cash, iPads, and gift certificates, are being awarded throughout the contest and are announced on Facebook, Twitter Instagram, and YouTube.
  • Donations will be made to the winners' local Boys & Girls Clubs

Labermeier said the contest has already attracted many submissions from readers and positive feedback from teachers and librarians.

Some entries can be viewed on The Healers Trilogy Facebook page, including the poem “Listen,” by a student at a Michigan high school and a portrait painting by a student at the Zionsville Middle School in Indiana.

“I have been completely blown away by the creativity and originality of the entries,” Labermeier said. “It makes my heart feel good that kids are using this platform to show who they are and to express themselves.”

She believes that kids are relating to the characters in the book who have talents and abilities they must develop in order to see how strong and powerful they actually can be.

Labermeier came up with the idea for the contest after researching trends in literacy and taking note of the school fundraising projects her children were bringing home.

“So I thought the contest would be a great way to help get young people excited about reading, while helping schools and libraries financially,” Labermeier said. “Through my own journey as an author, I had this great need to express who I truly was. I believe we all have this need inside of us. So, I think it is important to encourage young people to express themselves, too. Their uniqueness needs to be nurtured and celebrated.”

During this long winter, Donna has seen an uptick in contest activity after students have had snow days. She believes reading books or working on creative projects can be a better way to beat cabin fever than sitting in front of the TV, iPad, or computer.

Writing to heal

Labermeier is not one of those writers who always dreamed of writing novels. Although she earned a degree in English literature from Vanderbilt University in 1992, she worked in the investment and banking industry before choosing to stay home to raise her children in 2003.

Labermeier began writing “The Healers Trilogy” toward the end of 2009. At that point in her life, she was devoting a lot of her time caring for young children and aging parents.

“I was losing myself and my identity," she said. "I was really searching for a creative outlet—something that would let me express myself and be meaningful to me. I also knew in my heart that there was something else I was meant to do with my life to make a difference on a broader scale.”

During a trip to Arizona, Labermeier was exposed to the concepts of energy medicine and energy healing. While she was fascinated by the notion that we all have the power to heal ourselves and one another, she didn’t really test the theories until she became quite ill a few months later.

“I was taking antibiotics and nothing seemed to be working. So, I was fearful,” Labermeier said. “One night, it occurred to me that there must be a way to heal myself.”

As soon as she made up her mind, she said, “The thoughts just started flooding in, including

the descriptions of my characters and all of the amazing detail for my initial book. It came in with such clarity. I had never experienced anything like it.”

Once she started writing, Labermeier said, she got well and hasn’t been sick since.

When it came time to publish her first manuscript, she weighed the pros and cons of submitting it to a publisher or publishing the book herself. Although she generated some interest from traditional imprints, Labermeier ultimately chose to self-publish. She used a firm that helps independent authors with editing, proofreading, formatting, cover design, distribution, and publicity.

With self-publishing, “I have so much more control over the whole process: when it’s sold, where it’s sold, and how long it’s sold,” the author said. As a first-time novelist, she believes it’s unlikely she would have been able to conduct the national teen literacy project.

All authors must be actively involved in book promotion, whether it’s self published or produced by a traditional publisher. Labermeier seems to have a knack for promotion. In addition to working with publicists and launching the teen literacy project, she has contributed blogs to The Huffington Post  once a month for the past two years. Although she writes her essays on The Huffington Post to inspire adults, the exposure has given her greater recognition as a writer.

“It’s all good,” Labermeier said. “It’s about putting positive energy out there in the world.” She believes “All creative expression is terrific, meaningful, and special. We need to celebrate and encourage that with our kids.”

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Connect with WCPO Contributor Eileen Fritsch on Twitter: @EileenFritsch

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