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Local girl wins national PBS writing contest

MONTE DRAPER \ BEMIDJI PIONEER Vivi Allosso won first place in the national PBS Kid's Go! Writers Contest for her story, "Missing pants."

BEMIDJI -- If you want to see what it takes to win a national competition for kindergarten entrants in the PBS Kid's Go! Writers Contest this year, stop by the Bemidji Public Library during the month of August.

Bemidji home-schooled student Vivi Allosso started to talk in sentences when she was 2-years-old and made up stories about her favorite stuffed animal, an elephant. By the age of 6, she not only told stories, she added her own artwork to illustrate his adventures. In fact, it was a school project that caused Vivi to put the two talents together -- writing and illustrating -- for her book, "Missing Pants."

"I can't even remember when I started to tell stories," Vivi said. "It's always been there. When I listened to stories, I would try to think of what the guys looked like and stuff like that, and I would make a movie in my head."

"When she was really little, she would pull out one of her father's books and pretend to read it," said her mother, Steph Allosso. "It was hilarious because she would pretend to read but she was actually making up a story. We had a book called the 'Sand County Almanac' and it had pictures of different animals and Vivi would make up stories about them. Her dad loves to read so we have lots of books about the house."

Vivi and her brother Gio (Giovanni) are home-schooled by their mother and father, Dan Allosso, as two older siblings are off in college. The family now lives in Bemidji after their move from St. Paul. They're enjoying country life and sustainable farming; everyone pitches in to do the chores.

As Vivi likes to tell it, stories are always running around in her head about life on the farm and her own adventures as Victorious Vivi.

The day of her conversation with a reporter, Vivi was wearing one of the T-shirts that her mother prepares; Vivi always always designs them with a "V" inside a star on the front. Vivi has a collection of fabric markers which she uses to complete the designs on the shirt. Of course, the shirt also tell the story of the wonder girl who rights the wrongs of the world with her super fast speed and ability to communicate with animals.

Vivi does admit that writing and drawing are in a close race as to her favorites, but clothing design and fashion are making it a close three-way contest.

The children watch public television and their favorite shows are "Fetch with Fuffman," and "Power Puff Girls."

"If Vivi is watching her stories ('Fuffman' and 'Power Puff Girls')," Steph said, "She has her sketchbooks out all the time. When she was 3 and couldn't write but she could draw so she would tell me the story and I would write the down the words next to the picture for her. In fact, I would say that she likes to draw more than she likes to write."

Steph believes parents need to let their children be free to explore and use their imagination to the fullest. They also have the responsibility to get the supplies children need, like crayons and paper, music lessons (cello and harp are the instruments of choice for Vivi), and creative playtime and physical activities (Vivi is an avid curler). In short, parents have the responsibility to open the world up for their children and let those talents and interests lead them where they need to be or want to be.

The fact that brother Gio didn't win his kindergartner entry, "Bitsy and the Colors," for the yearly PBS contest did not deter Vivi from entering the contest the first year she was eligible. It started out as a month-long home school English project. Every day, Vivi had to complete a page of either writing or illustrating.

When the project was finished, Steph sent the manuscript into Prairie Public TV in Fargo, N.D. Not all public TV stations participate in this national contest, but Steph heard the Fargo station did, so that's where she entered Vivi's work. The contest actually began as a writing contest through "Reading Rainbow," another public TV show.

The first surprise came when a representative from the Fargo station called to tell them Vivi's entry won first place in the regional contest and it would automatically be entered in the national contest. Vivi and a third-grader who also won the national contest will be honored Sept. 23 at a party in Fargo.

Prairie Public TV Fargo, with two national first-place winners, was quite proud of its viewers' wins, so it wanted to throw a big party to celebrate, Steph said.