First-graders from Orange County shared their original stories with a best-selling children’s author during a special event Thursday at the University of Central Florida.

The activity was part of the 2012 Young Authors’ Conference held at the Teaching Academy and Morgridge International Reading Center, both part of the College of Education.

Nearly 160 young authors from Catalina and Ivey Lane elementary schools came to UCF for the conference, where they presented stories they created in school and discussed their writing processes.

Special guest Loreen Leedy spoke to students about storytelling and what inspires the stories depicted in her educational picture books she writes and illustrates. Leedy is the award-winning author of children’s books such as “Measuring Penny” and “The Shocking Truth About Energy.”

All of the students left the conference with a copy of Leedy’s newest book, “Seeing Symmetry.”

The conference also gave students and faculty from the College of Education the opportunity to engage in writing-tutoring and motivate the young authors.

“There are so many benefits to the conference, from the powerful writing and sharing experience to the increased access to literature in the children’s classrooms and homes,” said Taylar Clements, an instructor in the School of Teaching, Learning, and Leadership.

The chance to interact with other students, meet a famous author, and share their original work—all on a college campus setting—also served to get the first-graders thinking about what their futures could hold when it comes to college and careers, Clements said.