O'Fallon Progress

Carriel, Fulton writing clubs publish anthology of short stories, illustrations

‘Feels amazing’ having work published say O’Fallon students

Carriel and Fulton junior high schools have short stories and illustrations published in two books available at the school libraries and the O’Fallon Public Library.
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Carriel and Fulton junior high schools have short stories and illustrations published in two books available at the school libraries and the O’Fallon Public Library.

More O'Fallon School District 90 students from the Carriel and Fulton junior high schools' writing clubs can call themselves published authors. Both clubs recently published an anthology of short stories.

"It feels really amazing to be a published author, 'cause it's been a dream of mine for a long time," said Carriel eighth-grader Rachael Dziaba, 13.

The club's have done it once before, but this time their work also has illustrations.

"This is something that not a lot of kids can say that they've accomplished at this point in their lives. It's pretty amazing, and it lays the ground work for future goals and projects they may want to explore, too," said Katherine Murray, the Amelia V. Carriel Jr. High and Edward A. Fulton Jr. High Writing Club sponsor.

There were 10 student writers from Fulton and 12 from Carriel.

The illustrations were an added element this year, courtesy of Suzy McDaniel, art teacher at both schools, and her students.

"All of the students who participated, from both schools, did a phenomenal job on their contributions. Some of the illustrators were not in the writing clubs, but the work of three Carriel students and five Fulton artists were still published," Murray said.

Each artist had a portfolio, which the writers were able to look through and choose pieces that they thought would best fit their content, Murray said.

"Which is another way I tried to simulate the publishing process for the students," said Murray, who led the submission, editing and publication process for the sixth- through eighth-graders at both schools. This was her third time sponsoring a publication for the Carriel club and her first time for Fulton.

"I spent about 60 hours reading, re-reading, editing and coordinating 22 stories and communicating with the publisher," Murray said.

The students had nine weeks to pick a book theme and write stories before both books were printed in January.

"They were a creative bunch, full of promise, hopes, ideas and energy. As much as the students take away from writing club, I walk away every time feeling renewed by their optimism and grace under pressure," Murray said.

Perseverance and time management skills were heavily employed by the students, Murray said.

"There were some challenges, with students involved having commitments to other activities, like sports or music lessons, but they did a great job staying focused, and everyone met the deadlines seamlessly," Murray said.

The books are available at the O'Fallon Public Library and both Carriel and Fulton school libraries.

Fulton book

"Monsters: Into Everyone's Life, A Little Monster Must Fall," is the title of the Fulton book.

Murray said she allowed the students have "free-reign" with the topic of monsters. Some students "went to some really interesting places," she said.

One of the monsters was the good guy. Others did twists on the Loch Ness monster or monsters that already existed. Or they created their own monsters.

"One student chose to have a tumor named 'Bobby,' so like a monster modeled after cancer, and another was modeled from the author, sort of delving into mental health issues," Murray said.

The students' ability to intertwine their own creativity while interpreting monsters and their origins surprised Murray, she said.

"They didn't just approach their stories with the attitude like, 'A monster is a bad thing with horns and fangs.' Instead, they pushed the envelope a bit and dove in with more complex interpretations for their age, I think," Murray said.

Fulton seventh-grader Lauren Meyer, 13, said her story was about "discovering how the people we think are the monsters aren't really the ones we should be afraid of."

"It was a great experience, and I had a lot of fun with it. So I would recommend this to other people," Meyer said.

Fulton sixth-grader Brandi Kombrink, 12, said working on her story was "a lot of hard work" that paid off in the end.

"I felt that it was an honor to have a book published in middle school," Dziaba said.

Short stories and their authors included in the book are:

"The Monster Inside Me," by Brandi Kombrink;

"The Abduction," by Britton Poole;

"True Colors," by Lauren Meyer;

"Code Talkers," by Julia LoBue;

"The Alien In My House," by Isabella Iffert;

"The Werewolf's Wretched Cry," by Sabrina Phebus;

"Friends in the Darkness," by Jackie Fischer;

"The West-Wing Dragon," by Claire McDonald;

"The Loch Ness Monster," by Aidan Johnson; and

"Following Me," by Alex Baldessari.

Artwork was by Tiara Hopper, Noah Berthot, Claire McDonald, Cody Benson, Claire McDonald and Lucie Speakes.

Carriel book

"Which Will It Be? Heartbreak or Happiness?" is the title of the Carriel book.

Murray said its short stories have themes revolving around the "landslide of different emotions" and the "roller coaster of hope" that result from first crushes and first learns "about matters of the heart."

Carriel eighth-grader Savannah Kelly, 14, said the whole experience is "really, really cool — and kinda of surreal, too."

"I think the hardest part was trying to develop my characters, and that's a little bit harder when you're writing a short story," Kelly said.

Short stories and their authors included in the book are:

"Tough Love," by Jesse Dittmar;

"19," by Sojourner “Journee” Brownridge;

"Nuke's Story," by Brooklyn Beltz;

"Horror of Love," by Mia Thomas;

"Love and Hate," by Ashlynn Phillips;

"Secrets in the Stars," by Rachael Dziaba;

"Three Blind Doves," by Lily Cooper;

"Dark Matters," by Savannah Kelly;

"Prom?" by Olivia White;

"The First (And Best) Crush Ever," by Madison Skaggs;

"Neighbors," by Selena Daniels; and

"What's Within," by Emily Schweiger.

Artwork was by Ethan Nieroda, Kasey Sharpe and Ava Baldwin.