Thursday, April 24, 2014

Teen holds book launch

If you had asked Claire Hyatt two years ago if she’d ever write a book, her answer would have been “no.”
The 10th-grader at Fort Frances High School said she never really planned to write one.

“It just happened,” she shrugged. “I can’t pinpoint the exact moment that I decided I was going to write a book.”
But Hyatt did because she wanted to prove to herself—and others—that she could.
“Some people said I couldn’t do it,” she admitted. “But I proved them wrong. . . .
“[And] I learned that when I set my mind to something, I can do it.”
Her novel, entitled “Last of the Spirit Seers,” is about a girl who can see the dead and works together with her two brothers to solve the mystery of why the spirit seers are being murdered.
She launched the book last Wednesday at Fort Frances High School, with fellow students and teachers stopping by the library to hear her answer questions about the novel, read an excerpt, and even to purchase a copy.
“It’s a rarity, I want to say, in a teaching career to actually see a student follow through with something like this,” noted Denise Rybuck, Hyatt’s English teacher, adding it was such a pleasure to be a part of it.
In fact, to the knowledge of Education Director Heather Campbell, this is the first time a local high school student has published a novel.
“I think it’s something really spectacular for the Rainy River District School Board, the high school itself, and also our district to have talent like Claire come out of our area like this,” Rybuck enthused.
“It’s really amazing.”
Hyatt said her book, which features a girl from Ohio who travels to England, actually is based on local ghost folklore.
“I researched true ghost stories from around the district,” she noted, adding she also did a lot of geographical research.
“The stories are a little bit embellished in the book to make them scarier.”
For example, one story Hyatt came across was from north of Emo, where it is said there’s a lady who walks around with a lantern among a row of trees.
And this is what inspired the cover of the Hyatt’s novel, which she created herself.
She and her parents went to the row of trees where the ghost story originated from.
“My mom dressed up in old clothes and she held a lantern,” Hyatt explained, adding she’s also in the photo, portraying the main character, “Aria,” looking at the “spirit.”
“I used Photoshop to edit it and clean up the footprints from the snow, so it looks like the ghost is floating,” she remarked.
Hyatt said she chose to write a scary story because she grew up listening to ghost tales.
“I like scaring myself so I thought others would like it,” she reasoned, noting one of her inspirations is Ransom Riggs, an American writer and filmmaker best known for the book, “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.”
“I really wish I could write like him,” she said. “He’s the one who inspired the ending to my book.”
But Donna Erickson, another English teacher at Fort High, felt Hyatt did write in a style similar to Riggs.
“I had read Riggs’ book right before [Hyatt’s] and I thought there are so many cool parallels between the two,” she noted.
Meanwhile, since Hyatt didn’t set out to write a book, she didn’t set a standard for how hard she thought it was going to be.
“I did it for fun and for me, so it was pretty easy,” she remarked, though adding that constructing the timeline for her novel was the most challenging part.
“Everything has to flow and you can’t contradict yourself,” she stressed. “So I constantly had to go back and change things.
“It was a lot of work.”
Hyatt worked on her book whenever she had free time in between sports and school.
“The summer was the easiest time to write,” she noted, saying it took her 11 months to complete the book.
“However, I used my book for procrastination,” she added. “If I had a project due for school, I’d suddenly come up with the best ideas and have to write.”
She also said her parents were a big help with the editing process. And she self-published her book using the website www.lulu.com
Hyatt added she felt a great wave of accomplishment upon completing the novel.
“It was a great feeling,” she revealed. “I was overwhelmed when I got my first printed copy.
“I’m still overwhelmed and can’t even read it in book form.”
If Hyatt were to give advice to any aspiring writers, she would tell them to “just go for it and not care what anyone thinks.”
However, she said her family and friends have been very supportive—even though she feels some of the students at school don’t understand how much of an accomplishment it is for her.
Hyatt currently is starting to work on her second book.
“It’s a lot harder than the first, but anyone who has read the first book knows that they’ll probably want a second,” she remarked, though admitting she doesn’t know yet whether there will be a third.
“It depends where the second one goes,” she reasoned, adding she’s not sure if she even will pursue writing as a career.
“I didn’t know two years ago that I would be doing this and I don’t know what I’ll be doing in two years,” Hyatt conceded.
“Last of the Spirit Seers” is available for purchase at Betty’s, in the Fort High library, and at www.lulu.com and www.amazon.com
Hyatt will be signing copies of the book at Betty’s on Feb. 15 from 1-3 p.m.

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