More than a year ago, a Greencastle teacher and 10 students in her creative writing class set out on a new adventure. With the help of a local author, they decided to write a book. And publish it.
In January 2020, Greencastle-Antrim High School teacher Glory Sterling asked her creative writing class if they would be interested in writing and publishing a book. Local author Sue James, who has numerous publishing projects under her belt, offered her assistance and guidance.
“I love assisting students to find their writer’s voices,” James said. “It’s a work of the heart for me.”
So began an adventure that Sterling, James and students Emma Burkett, Kendall Burleson, Madison Henson, Zoe Hepfer, Ashlee Horst, Madison Levreault, Kyra Nadzady, Kaden Nicarry , Amayah Walker, and Elika Weaver finally saw come to fruition a year later.
Sterling knew the project would be a challenge. But she had no idea how great the challenge would become.
Two months into the project, the Coronavirus pandemic abruptly closed schools around the state, forcing G-ASD students into an unfamiliar and trying virtual learning mode.
But Sterling and her students had started the project and were determined to finish it.
Getting started with ‘Sides in Shadows’
The book, published in January 2021, reflects positively on her students, Sterling said.
“Follow the journey of Eric, Paxon, Jessica, Luna, and Eli as they attempt to put the pieces of their lives together while surviving their own home lives and struggle to restore their only escape from the chaos.”….. From the ‘Sides in Shadows’ foreword
The class started the project in January, working on a plot and developing characters for their story. They decided to base it around five stereotypical teenagers at a fictional Ammon High School.
“Welcome to Ammon High School, where five stereotypical high schoolers are exposed to their not-so-stereotypical hidden personas,” the book’s foreword reads.
The five characters — Eric, Paxton, Jessica, Luna and Eli — fit the expected stereotypes: a football captain; his popular almost-too-perfect girlfriend; a nerd; the unpopular girl constantly ridiculed by her classmates; the rebellious Goth-attired boy who refuses to conform, and the “average” student just trying to get along.
Each have their own secrets and alternate personas they hide from public view.
Things get… you could say “explosive” when someone decides to expose those secrets on social media.
The plot’s storyline is well thought out and the intrigue expertly developed; but getting from the beginning of the story to its conclusion presented a challenge for the class of first-time authors.
The class still had two months of work ahead of them when schools shut down in mid-March 2020.
Virtual online classes soon replaced the district’s in-person classrooms. That meant working together remotely if the class was to finish the project.
Sterling set up weekly meetings on Zoom and challenged her creative writing students to finish the project.
“We faced challenges due to COVID19; (but) we managed to maintain the hard work and collaboration that went into making the book,” Burleson, a 16-year-old sophomore said of the project.
In spite of those challenges, the experience was exciting, students said. From start to finish, they worked together and benefited from the collaboration.
The idea intrigued Elika Weaver, 16, from the beginning; but at first she wasn’t sure it was going to work.
“We started out really well, but COVID definitely slowed the process down for a few weeks,” she said. “Almost as soon as virtual school was established, Mrs. Sterling and the rest of the class worked like crazy to finish the story and make edits. Every week we would have a zoom (meeting) to discuss the book and our next steps”.
Madison Henson, another 16-year-old sophomore, was extremely nervous when the project started in January 2020.
“Writing was not a strength of mine,” she said. “After school shut down, I thought writing the book process would come to a screeching halt. But we persevered and got it done.”
Finally getting the books in hand after months of setbacks because of COVID was like opening the first gift on Christmas Day, she said.
‘Pretty talented group’
“The students did everything,” Sterling said. “Sue and I were just there to guide them.”
They enjoyed it and surprised themselves during their journey from thought to thing; an actual book in hand. The students, Sterling, and James are very proud of the finished product.
“The overall experience was very exciting,” Burleson said. “I think the book benefits from the different perspectives and ideas from everybody in the class. Seeing the final product was very rewarding after all of the editing, revising and writing. We also benefited from being able to edit each other’s work.”
“Writing a book with my creative writing students was such an eventful journey and rewarding experience,” Sterling said. “It would have been easy to give up in March of 2020 when our school shut down due to COVID, but we persevered and I am so grateful we did.”
She plans another book creation project with a new batch of creative writing students next school year.