Students at Sterling Middle School received writing tips, learned about the process of publishing a book and were treated to inside information about the latest book author Stephanie Douglas is working on, Wednesday when the author was spent the day at school.
Douglas is the author of ‘Callasandra Fractured’, a dystopian young novel about a 16-year-old girl named Cassi who, when disaster strikes and a dark family secret is revealed, must come to terms with the terrible realization that nothing is wrong. is as it seems. A dangerous secret and enemies everywhere, Cassi becomes Callasandra and must find the strength and courage to fight for her life and the lives of those she loves.
Eighth-grade SMS students read and studied the novel for their curriculum selection of the dystopian genre. Marybeth Skerjanec, an eighth grade language arts teacher, emailed Douglas with questions related to the novel with little hope that Douglas or the staff would respond and after much correspondence between the two, Douglas thought that it would be quite an experience to meet the students.
His visit to SMS, which was funded by the RE-1 Valley Foundation, Inc., included small group discussions with each eighth-grade class, a full-grade presentation, and lunch with language arts teachers. .
During a breakout session, she talked about letting your creativity shine through, sharing that her creativity has been received positively and less positively depending on who she works with and interacts with. She told the students that there were times in the past when she hid her creativity and eccentricity, but ultimately she decided to be herself in all settings and encouraged them to do the same.
She also talked about the importance of reading and encouraged students to always make time to read.
While answering questions from some of the budding writers, she explained how she deals with writer’s block sharing, which happened to her several times when she was writing her book. She said it usually happens because the thing she’s thinking about is too big, “you kind of have to go in and see what your handwriting is,” Douglas told the students, explaining that when she broke it down and looked at what characters, like the direction, for example, would want that helped her be able to keep writing.
She also told the students that when they write and they have a plot point, there are likely to be several different ways to get from point A to point B and if they don’t like the path that they chose to go from one point to the next, you can go back and choose another option.
“There is no great risk of taking the wrong path to get there. I think sometimes we can put a lot of pressure on ourselves to make it perfect and I think sometimes it’s okay if there are imperfections because also while you’re going through the editing process after you will clean it and if there are any holes you can fill them,” Douglas said.
Students also asked about character development, how she decided to make Cassi and her sister Haley twins, and why another character, Rainia, was in the story. Douglas said Raina was based on her experience when she was in seventh grade and being terribly bullied by a girl who in sixth grade had been her friend, the bullying came out of nowhere and lasted for two years. This girl had the same kind of arrogance as Raina in the book.
“I think this friend that I had had all through primary school was spending a summer and had a completely different experience with her, the only thing my brain could really come up with was that there had to be an event in his life that made the switch. It may have nothing to do with me, it’s very likely it has nothing to do with me or it could have had to do with me, I don’t know the answer to this question, but in the story, I think it really represents the pressure that all of these students feel to stay on top,” Douglas said.
The author was also inspired by other things.
For example, the sex trafficking part of the book came about because she was sworn in when she was just starting to write the book. The case involved a woman with a five-year-old daughter who was forced into prostitution by a man who at first appeared to be her friend, but then kicked her out of her home, took everything she had – phone, driver’s license, clothes – then threatened to find out where she lived and hurt her daughter if she didn’t do what he wanted.
This experience helped Douglas write about the feeling of helplessness that Cassi and other characters in the book had because they had someone else making decisions for them.
Douglas was also inspired by her time at school in Seattle and learned of a large fire that occurred there in the early 1900s. After the city burned, prostitutes helped fund the city’s reconstruction and they became heroes, which she tried to emulate in the book.
In addition to asking questions, students also shared their book report motives with the author. Students were tasked with choosing 10 symbols and characters that they felt were important to the book and providing support as to why they had chosen them. While most of the students stuck to mobiles, one made a movie poster for the book and another created a small trunk full of outfits that Cassi wore in different parts of the book.
Douglas was very impressed with all of the projects, telling the students, “I love it, it’s great” and “It’s amazing”.
Along with the writing process, students also learned how to get a book published. As a first-time writer, her book seemed a bit risky for publishers, but she didn’t want to give up, so Douglas self-published on Amazon Kindle and hired an artist to do the cover art. The book has done so well that she now has about three agents that she is currently working with to finalize who she wants to use for her second and third books in the “Callasandra” series and possibly a movie eventually.
“I really see this book and this series as a movie, I feel like they’re very visual, so my goal is not just to publish but to make a movie out of it,” Douglas said.
The manuscript for her second book is already finished and she is just working on finishing the music that will be placed in the book via QR codes as was done with the first book.
Douglas shared a preview of the second book, which will be set in a different location. Cassi is once again the main character, but readers will also see a lot more Haley and learn about new characters as well.
“There are some really really fun characters and I’m really excited for this book, it’s like a totally different world,” the author said.
If you want to read her first book, Douglas has made “Callasandra Fractured” free to download on Kindle until January 15, so “everyone can own their own copy.”