A community novel is one that is written collaboratively by members of your community. The library invites writers to each contribute a chapter to advance the group's story. The story is set in Topeka and will use landmarks and a setting that all will recognize. Writing and publication began in May and continues through September with a chapter added each week (just like any other serial novel you've experienced). Each chapter will appear here so you may read them in order, with a new chapter published each week.
Download and listen to the behind-scenes interview with project organizers Anne Pepper and Lissa Staley when they appeared on the library's podcast HUSH.
Community Novel Project 2012:
Capital City Capers: An Ad Astra Per Aspera Adventure
Kevin Emile has spent his entire life, all 25 years of it, trying to build his resume so he can get out of Topeka, KS, preferably before he's officially vested in the state retirement program. On his way from being assistant web designer for the city to something even greater, the realities of restructuring and downsizing change his plans. Kevin is assigned to be in charge of "Topeka is Awesome" – a complicated and demanding project conceived by someone who was recently fired, and which has no staff outside of himself and an intern who is new to Kansas.
Opportunities and deadlines abound, because at the culmination of the project Kevin must present his success at a big conference in Los Angeles, which could be Kevin's big chance to land the job of his dreams on the West Coast. Before he can leave Topeka behind, first Kevin has to convince everyone that his home town is indeed awesome.
Kate Sanchez has lived her whole life in the shadow of the happiest place on earth, in Orlando, Florida. Just out of college with a degree in public relations, she ends up as an intern for a year with a Capital City Works grant on an underfunded project to market the City of Topeka to its own residents.
What happens next? Check back each week to find out, as each chapter will be written by a different community author working to advance the story to an exciting conclusion!
Lissa Staley has written nine different first drafts as part of National Novel Writing Month, every November since 2003. Revision is not her strong point though, and this is her first published work of fiction. In addition to serving as the NaNoWriMo Municipal Liaison for Topeka, she also works as a Book Evangelist and Librarian at the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Diana Marsh spends her days as an administrative assistant with the State of Kansas, and her nights plotting the torment and agony of fictional characters. She has put the latter skill to use as a participant of National Novel Writing Month since 2003, an activity that has given her nearly ten years of fun and five completed novels. If only that one pesky first draft from 2010 would end.
D.L.Rose has been writing stories since she first learned to scribble on a piece of paper. When she’s not creating tales of the fantastic and unusual, she’s a homeschooling mother to two beautiful creatures. She can often be found blogging about the balancing act of life at her blog, Finding Mommy, Finding God (www.maidenfine.com/wordpress).
Antonette Coffee, formerly from Chicago, has resided in Topeka now for 22 years where she met her husband of 17 years—Don. Together they have six children and four grandchildren. Antonette received her Bachelor’s degree in Computer Information Systems at Friend’s University in Kansas and an Associate’s degree in Criminal Justice from Allen County Community College where she was first informed by her college professor that she had amazing writing ability. She first began writing at the age of 14, inspired by life experiences and faith. After winning a poetry contest for “Heartbroken” her motivation grew. Antonette loves to write in her spare time and has led teenage book reads at her local library. Loving the opportunity to mentor to young people–she volunteers at local community centers coaching volleyball; teaches youth Sunday School at the church she attends; along with all of the various other duties keeping her occupied in her young girl’s school sports and activities. She keeps smiling wherever you see her.
Shari Schawo — I have been writing for about eight years and have completed a Nanowrimo first draft five times since 2004. I’ve always been addicted to reading, especially romance and supernatural fiction and have started to really enjoy YA fiction. My favorite non-fiction is popular science and writing technique books. This will be my first published piece.
Sarah Burkett — I’m a 30-year-old mom of two, married to the local mailman. I’ve lived in Kansas for eight years, and lived in Florida and Indiana prior to that. I’ve been writing my whole life. I was the kid who loved to stay inside and live out my own imaginary world. I had friends in “real life” but I was more stuck on the “imaginary”. Not in the “they’re totally real” way, but more of it was nice to have control over something. I hope, one day, to fully finish a novel, but until I do that, I’m just enjoying blogging and taking pictures of the world I live in.
Paul Swearingen is the author of “The High School Series”, six young adult novels available in e-book form via Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, etc. A retired English/journalism/Spanish teacher, he managed to survive 34+ years in public, private, and government schools, including 22 years in the Topeka Public Schools. He also was a radio newsman and disk jockey, a newspaper editor and photographer, a personnel manager for a large retail store (now defunct), a long-time publisher of the National Radio Club’s magazine, “DX News”, and during a short, dark period was a telemarketer and sold cemetery lots.
Carrie Cummings — I live in Topeka with a corgi, two cats, and my husband. I don’t particularly aspire to writing novels although writing poetry, short stories and capturing moments on paper have been a constant throughout my life. You can usually find me playing with spinning wheels or learning a new craft when not working at the library.
George Ismael Feliu Jr. was born in Brooklyn, NY, the only child of Jorge and Jeannette Feliu. He gained a thirst for reading and learning at International Christian School of Brooklyn, NY, where he graduated and later taught for five years. He graduated from Hyles-Anderson College in 2000 with a B.S. in Secondary Education with a major in history and minor in English. An avid reader of both fiction and non-fiction, he currently resides in Topeka, KS where he has completed the four volumes of Guardians of Havenshire series. He could be reached at email@example.com. His books Guardians of Havenshire Book 1: The Fall and Book 2: The Rise can be bought at Createspace.com, georgefeliu.com, and amazon.com. They are also available on Kindle and Nook. This winter look for the third volume Rebel and the fourth Triumph and Tragedy next spring.
C R Kennedy is a graduate of Kansas State University where she majored in Finance and Accounting. Her passion for creativity and the Hollywood Silver Screen sparked her recent career drive to write vintage and modern-day romance and mystery stories. She currently has several works in progress and plans to have short stories available through e-publishing before year end. She is an active member of Kansas Writers Inc. and lives in Topeka with her husband and two adorable children.
Romualdo R. Chavez is a Washburn University Alumn. He majored in Psychology and minored in Sociology. His love for the Urban Fantasy genre led him to write his debut novel El Vampiro and the Curse of the Feathered Serpent in 2009. He resides in Topeka, Kansas, where he is an active member of Kansas Writers Inc., and continues to work on other novels and short stories.
Jean Kary has written two novels while participating in the National Novel Writing Month which she is in the process of editing. She has written poetry and short stories since high school. She is an avid history lover, having researched, written and presented history papers for the past fifteen years in the Black Hills. After living on her South Dakota ranch for almost sixty years she spends her winters in Kansas while returning to the ranch during the summers. She has four children and eight grandchildren who she enjoys spending time with. Her favorite activities in the Topeka area include spending time at the Topeka Shawnee County Library, browsing the local thrift stores now that she has some time away from ranching, and going to events such as her favorite, The Topeka Passion Play. Her hobbies include traveling, reading, quilting, and collecting this and that.
Rae Kary Staab is a new writer. She watched her daughter and her mother Jean write novels in one month and she is excited to try again this November to write a novel. She has a B.S. in Geological Engineering and is a certified E.M.T. Rae stayed home to raise her family and now that they are grown she is looking forward to writing and working. She enjoys reading, rope spinning, and sewing. Rae and her husband live north of Topeka. Jean Kary and Rae Kary Staab may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
Crystal K. Green fell in love with words at a young age and has pursued writing and language learning ever since. Writing inspires her to enjoy life and appreciate each day. Crystal’s current project is a series of supernatural thrillers based in Kansas and Missouri about an unseen race known as the Wisendren. The first two books, which are being edited and revised for publication, she crafted during NaNoWriMo. She has completed first drafts of five other novels and two movie scripts along with dozens of poems, short stories, and essays. Two of her poems, So the Story Goes and Being Alive Is, have been published through the National Library of Poetry. In addition to writing, Crystal does freelance graphic design and database work. She can be reached at email@example.com.
Sarah Langley, life-long lover of words, grew up finding rhyming words for every object she saw. She wrote numerous short stories, all of which were silly, but her young eyes saw them as masterpieces. Now she writes both poetry and novels because she loves the feel of a pen in her hand, the way a nib sinks into handmade paper, and because words (whether rhyming or not) are always stuck in her head like a favorite song. When not writing, Sarah works as a clown. She and her brother (who also helps her with novel plots) have been twisting balloons for three years. But whether making balloon sculptures, spending time with her brother, or just living life, Sarah is always searching for inspiration to put those words in her head onto paper.
Aimee L. Gross started writing as a child, and at age nine, mailed an application to the Famous Writer’s School without telling her parents. She still has the response, a letter advising her to wait to enroll until she became a grown up, ‘but keep writing.’ Despite a thirty-some year career in health care, she has continued to write, and has completed three novels so far.
Marla Holt has a degree in creative writing from the University of Kansas and prefers to spend her time writing about silly things and knitting. She lives off of strict diet of coffee, wool, and British television. She writes publicly about yarn at http://tinydinostudios.com, but all her stories are currently up to no good in her private journal.
Jason Whisnant is a more or less balding (more), more or less broke (more), father, poet, tech geek and knitter. He was born in Kansas, went to high school in Oklahoma and Kansas, college in Kansas, and decided that it would be the most fun to stop growing up somewhere in the midst of all of that. He currently resides in Topeka full-time, but plans to leave someday to live anywhere he doesn’t have to drive by Westboro Baptist on his way to the damn grocery store.
Anne Pepper is a mother, teacher, poet, librarian, and ice cream connoisseur. Trying new things is scary, so she does it often. She loves silence and understanding.
A community novel is one that is collaboratively conceptualized, written, illustrated, narrated, edited and published by members of your community. The library invites writers to each contribute a chapter to advance the group’s story.