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Washington Voices

Teacher/writer creates character that reflects self

Thu., Jan. 20, 2011

Coug Hawkins is a 15-year-old kid who knows how to keep his cool and handle a gun like a pro. He even has his own bumper sticker that reads: “Who is Coug Hawkins?” The sticker adorns more than 100 cars in Washington state and surrounding areas, driven by fans of a boy dreamed up by Jesse Freels.

“Coug is essentially me only bigger,” Freels admitted. Of course, Freels has never found himself in a life or death situation (or at least none that he disclosed) nor has he ever had to shoot anyone.

So as not to spoil the story, suffice it to say, Coug has seen some action. As the main character in Freels’ book, “Murder at Foxbluff Lake: A Coug Hawkins Mystery,” Coug leads readers on an adventure that will be followed by two more books in a series.

Growing up in Brewster, Wash., Freels never considered writing as a profession. Instead, he spent time hiking, fishing and camping with visions of being a teacher or working in the outdoors. He was athletic and settled on the idea of being a coach and a teacher, leaving the summers open to explore nature.

He earned his teaching credentials from Washington State University and Central Washington University. He wanted to experience teaching in an inner-city environment so he accepted a job in Las Vegas for two years and then moved to Spokane. For the past seven years, he has been teaching sixth-grade language arts/social studies at Greenacres Middle School where he also coaches several sports.

Freels also has been going on an annual “guys fishing trip” to Conconully, Wash., a small town in Okanogan County. During one of those outings, Freels took an early morning walk and his mind wandered; soaking up the beauty that surrounded him, he began dreaming up a character. A WSU Cougar fan, Freels named this character Coug, and the story began.

“I’ve always enjoyed writing, but I didn’t start seriously considering writing fiction until I developed the character, Coug Hawkins, who really is an extension of me at his age,” he said, “Once I realized that Coug could be a great character and came up with a setting, Conconully, I started developing a plot for the story. The development of the plot, at least in my head, came rather quickly. Once I realized how much I enjoyed doing this, I started writing more and more.”

Conconcully became Foxbluff and so it began. Through writing, Freels shares what he loves including the outdoors, small community living, closeness with family, and Washington State University which is mentioned often in the book, a book that has been given the thumbs up by well-known Cougar personalities including Bud Nameck, Derek Deis, Rob Rainville and Paul Mencke.

“As an educator, it was my intention to create a story/character that can be relatable and appropriate to the students that I am around every day.  Coug is a good kid who, I believe, can act as a role model for other kids his age. As a writer, I think it’s important for me to show my students that I actually enjoy doing what I am teaching them,” Freels said.

Go Coug! 

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