FONTANA — Grace Hanson loves to write.

The Fontana eighth-grader keeps a journal at home, writes poetry, and her work will appear in this year’s Southern Lakes Anthology.

Every year, organizers of the anthology publish outstanding poems, prose, cartoon and art from students in grades three through eight in 40 southern Wisconsin school districts, including Fontana.

But this year, Grace will receive a special recognition.

She will do a public reading of her illustrated poem, “Hidden Wonders,” during the Southern Lakes Anthology reception on May 21 at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.

Very few students — just six each year — are chosen to read their pieces aloud.

“To be chosen to read aloud is an honor,” said Jennifer Smithyman, student learning director at Fontana Elementary School.

And perhaps a bit daunting for Grace, who has never read to an audience before and could find herself in front of as many as 500 people at the Whitewater reception.

Help may be on the way, however.

Grace said her grandmother, Carol Whowell, has offered to help with rehearsals for the reading.

Grace’s illustrated poem, “Hidden Wonders,” is written on a pencil drawing of a path leading into the woods. The words scroll along the path. The poem contrasts the fears some have of the dark forest with Grace’s feelings for the beauty and mystery of the deep woods.

“People look into the deep, dark depths of the forest, seeing only the shadows that reside there,” the poem begins. “I look into the forest and see the trees moving with the whispering breath of the gentle wind.”

Grace said her inspiration came from something she wrote during an English language arts assignment.

“I liked how my piece turned out, but I didn’t think it would win that much,” she said.

Most of the submissions for the anthology are from previous class assignments, but Grace did her entry on her own.

“She’s just an all-around student,” Smithyman said. “She’s kind, and she has leadership abilities.”

This is the second year that Grace’s writing has appeared in the anthology.

Grace’s mother, Jamie Hanson, said her daughter caught the writing bug about two years ago. Hanson said she has also encouraged her daughter to appreciate the outdoors and nature.

A few years ago, the young girl started a journal.

“She’s very talented,” her mother said. “She loves to do creative things.”

Grace said her father, Roy Hanson, is encouraging her to write a book. But Grace said she thinks it will take a while before she has the skill for such an undertaking.

Creativity, it seems, runs in the family.

Hanson said her mother, Grace’s grandmother, Carol Whowell, paints as a hobby. And Hanson, too, had her work included in a Southern Lakes Anthology when she attended Fontana Elementary School.

Grace plays piano and plays saxophone in the school band. She has been playing piano and saxophone for about four years.

Smithyman said the Southern Lakes Anthology takes 24 submissions from each of the 40 schools and districts that are a part of the Southern Lakes Advanced Learning Network. Only 12 submissions from each school are selected for the anthology.

Out of all the schools, only one student representing each grade level is selected to read their work at the reception.

Walworth County schools districts that are part of the network are Fontana, Lake Geneva, Reek, Williams Bay, Delavan-Darien, Sharon, East Troy, Elkhorn and Woods.

The network helps teachers who work with gifted and talented students.

Amy Gee, chairwoman of the anthology project, is also director of instruction for grades kindergarten through fifth at Elkhorn Area School District.

Gee said she likes the anthology competition because it is open to all students whose schools are in the advanced learning network. There are five categories for the anthology, drawings, cartoons, prose, poetry and illustrated writing.

Grace’s piece falls under illustrated writing.

“A lot of young writers get hooked on this activity,” Gee said.

This is the 28th year for the anthology project. Each anthology has a theme. This year’s theme is “Not Always Black and White.”

About 330 pieces will be published in this year’s anthology.

Each student who is published gets a free copy of the anthology, and participating schools also get a copy for their libraries. The books sell for about $25 each.

Grace plans to attend Big Foot High School starting next year.

But what she plans to do after that is still wide open.

“I haven’t really found what I love to do,” she said.

Chris Schultz has been a reporter for more than 40 years. He has been with the Lake Geneva Regional since 2010. He covers the Lake Geneva City Council and the Lake Geneva area schools.