"Nico" follows the events in the life of a horse by the same name — from his birth to his eventual captivity, said Knauer, who has a passion for horses and horseback riding.
"I wanted a main idea to be about freedom," she said. "I wanted to show that there was a horse, the main character, who was born free and later throughout the story he kept trying to save that freedom. In the end he does have freedom, but in a different kind of way."
Knauer, a 12-year-old at Terman Middle School, said she started writing when she was very young with the encouragement of her mother.
"She'd give me these little books full of binder paper and I'd write these silly little stories on anything I could think of," she said. "I also had some really kind teachers who taught me to love language arts."
Knauer said she usually doesn't require any specific catalyst to become inspired to write. Instead she just sits down at the computer and thinks of ideas, as she did with "Nico."
"We had a long weekend and I just sat down and started writing. ... When I heard about this contest later I edited it down. It was very exciting to do this process and express my feelings."
This young writer clearly knows a lot about horses — both tame and wild — and also knows and cares about the Nevada mustangs. The story is suspenseful, with many moving descriptions. The writer makes it easy to identify with the equine protagonist and beautifully ties the horse's plight to the human prisoner's. The writing is as good as some we have seen in published stories by older writers. Bravo!