An assignment at Mt. Spokane High School has taken senior Nikki Ziegler on an unexpected journey.
“We were supposed to write a short children’s book based on a biblical character in my Bible as literature class,” Ziegler said. “The assignment was to write eight to 10 pages, but I just kept going. I love to write.”
That project turned into “The Emperor’s Helper,” a recently published children’s book. Set in China, the book tells the story of Emperor Li who looks for a successor to his throne. Li discovers the most qualified person turns out to be a very unlikely leader.
Ziegler didn’t have to look far for inspiration. “I have five younger siblings – four of them are adopted from China,” she said.
She traveled to China for one of the adoptions and named the heroine of her story Zhen-die, her little sister’s name.
Ziegler is one of three local teens who’ve recently published books. Shadle Park High School senior Fallon Jones has written two and is hard at work on a third.
“I wrote my first book, ‘Bite Me,’ at 13,” she said. The book was released in 2010. “I got really into the ‘Eragon’ books when I was 11. I remember reading that the author was 18, and I said I wanted to publish younger than him.” She grinned. “And I did!”
Her story involves a vampire showing up on the doorstep of a 17-year-old girl. “She gets thrust into this strange new world and finds out she’s an angel,” Jones explained. It turns out Jones was ahead of her time. “I wrote it pre-‘Twilight’!”
She then focused on getting her book into print. “I have all the self-publishing for dummies books,” she said, laughing.
The sequel, “The Jaws of Life” came out in 2011. Jones said, “This book begins at a funeral in the rain.”
Writing is her passion. “Each character becomes a real person to me,” she said. “I can sit and write for hours, lost in the world that I’m creating.”
Marie Townsend, a senior at On Track Academy, published her first book, “My Escape,” on New Year’s Eve. “I started it my freshman year. It took me three years to write it,” she said. “The main character’s dad dies in a plane crash and her life plummets in a downward spiral.”
The book is the first in the “Life Tragedy” series, Townsend has planned. She publishes under her first and middle names: Marie Kay.
Although “My Escape” is her first book in print, it isn’t the first she’s written. “I started writing ‘books’ in elementary school,” she said. “I wrote princess stories.”
All three teens plan to continue writing. Ziegler hasn’t made her final college choice yet, but she knows she’ll major in English. “I enjoyed the writing process more than I expected. If I write another book it will be a children’s book. I love kids and writing for them,” she said.
Jones received a Spokane Scholars award for English. Her third novel is titled “Biting the Bullet.” She smiled. “I’m keeping the mouth theme going.”
Townsend plans to pursue a career in nursing and has been accepted at Eastern Washington University, where she’ll minor in English. “When I’m writing, I put all my emotions into it,” she said. “If I’m angry, I’ll write a really intense scene. It’s great escape from daily life.”
Ziegler agreed. “I really like how you have a blank piece of paper and can be whoever you want.”