Fresh New Kicks: A design contest for kids and teens

By: Marenda Escobar, Marketing Specialist

Think about the shoes you wanted most as a kid. Perhaps they were a crisp new set of red Chuck Taylors. Or maybe you wanted to sport checkered Vans in your favorite color. What we wear is a form of self-expression. Even classic pieces can be styled and designed to fit individual tastes. And who doesn’t want to be original (Vans, n.d.)? This winter, kids and teens are invited to create their own designs in the Library’s 2023 Fresh New Kicks competition for a chance to win one of nine prizes. The concept is simple. Kids and teens can choose from blank shoe templates to draw and color in original designs of their choosing and submit their entries by February 10, 2023. 

The Fresh New Kicks contest has been kicking for a couple years. Like many creative endeavors, this concept came about during the pandemic. Introduced by the Library’s very own Theresa Horn and Missy Maeyens, the contest was first conducted online in the winter of 2021. With so many entries, the contest returned the next winter and submissions were displayed near the Teen Room at Main Library so all could enjoy the fresh new kicks. Mel Lutz, Youth Programming Specialist, noticed how much effort kids and teens would put into their designs. Wanting to give recognition to a broad range of artists, she created a special slideshow to recognize all finalists in the competition as well as the three winners. 

Self-expression is the inspiration for Fresh New Kicks, says Mel Lutz, who now oversees the competition. She hopes the contest will give kids and teens the opportunity to share their own unique style. Indeed, there is so much creativity that our community’s kids and teens have to offer. Last winter’s designs included a variety of colorful entries, with design concepts that included blooming cacti, desserts and fruits, a wide-eyed goldfish, math symbols, and tributes to beloved characters. In addition to promoting creativity, the contest also serves as an opportunity to connect school-aged kids to their local library. Four different schools have made class-wide submissions to Fresh New Kicks, including Dickinson Fine Arts Academy, Harrison, Monroe, and North Liberty Elementary in previous years.

This winter, kids and teens in grades 3-12 are once again encouraged to express their creativity and unique style, designing on either a high-top canvas sneaker, a lace-up combat boot, or a slip-on shoe.  The Library is excited to be awarding a total of nine prizes to the young designers in 2023. Prizes will be distributed among the three age groups (grades 3-5, 6-8, and 9-12) and include three $50 gift cards for each age group’s winner, and six $25 gift cards for two runner ups from each age group. Fresh New Kicks submissions are accepted from January 13 through February 10, 2023. 

Fresh New Kicks 2022 Winner

Bring My Creativity Back

The struggle to find the perfect writing tool. Getting up to get a drink of water for the fifth time in an hour. Deciding now is the perfect time to reorganize my files. Staring at a blank piece of paper or computer screen. This folks, is writers block and I admit for the past few week I’ve been struggling with writing, which is inconceivable, because I’ve always loved to write. As a kid, I'd spend hours penning silly stories by myself and with my best friend. How can I get my creativity back?  

It is frustrating not knowing where to begin, but creative blocks happen to the best of us. I’ve watched my husband put down his guitar after trying to figure out the direction to take a riff that he's been holding onto. Painters, musicians, actors, photographers, chefs, scientists, and students working on writing assignments for school, do you feel me? Regardless, I refuse to be defeated by this so-called writer's block and decided to explore different ways to get inspired.

I first did something that you might suspect a librarian would do, I explored some books: 

Dream writing assignments : 600+ prompts for creative writing by David E. LeCount: You can't run a marathon without practice and I suspect the same is true for writing. This titles gives writing prompts and exercises to work through. Who knows, one random writing prompt could lead to your next big idea.

Steal Like An Artist by Austin Kleon: This book covers 10 principles to boost creativity. One thing Kleon says that really resonated with me was "Always be reading. Go to the library. There's magic in being surrounded by books. Get lost in the stacks. Read bibliographies. It's not the book you start with, it's the book that book leads you to."

Imagine : how creativity works / Jonah Lehrer: Even though much controversy surrounds this book (the author admitted to plagarism and resigned from his job at The New Yorker), there were still interesting elements of this book. I like how it pointed out that frustration or being stuck, is an essential part of the creative process that we tend to forget. We tend to forget that the journey to our brilliant ideas is not always an easy process.

Of course there are other things I'll try:

1. Take a walk: Walk around town. Walk in the woods. I love walking because I notice the small details I never see through the window of a car.  
2. Reread a favorite book or part of it: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith and On The Road by Jack Keroauc are my go to books when I'm not feeling  inspired to write  
3. Watch a movie that has made a significant impact on your life: Amelie is a fantastic French film, that is full of beautiful visuals and the main character has an amazing imagination. It is my favorite and I cannot watch this film without being inspired in some form. 
4. Create a playlist of songs: I used Spotify to put together and playlist of my favorite songs that I can listen to while writing. 
5. Write with a another person: In the past I've alternated paragraphs of a story, through e-mail, with a childhood friend. It's also a good way to get honest feedback on your writing too. 
6. Draw pictures: You can doodle or sketch, but have you tried Zentangle? It's an easy, meditative art form, and a fun way to create beautiful patterns. The Centre Township Branch will be offering an intro for students in October. I hope to try this myself, as a way to relax and declutter my head. 
7. Travel or change your place: Go somewhere different, even if it's just a short trip to the a beach in Michigan. Hang out in a different coffee shop. A change of scenary is refreshing. 
8. Keep writing, no matter what:  Sometimes I write and it's really bad, but I know if I stop I won't have anything. Teens will have opportunities to explore writing with an upcoming Teens Write! program at the River Park Branch and young adult author Mike Mullin will present "How Is Taekwondo Like Writing? " (open to the public) at Open Book on October 18. Come get inspired to write! 

I know my lack of creativity is only temporary, but feel free to pass some onto me. How do you keep your creative juices flowing?

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