About the Community Novel Project

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A community novel is one that is collaboratively conceptualized, written, illustrated, narrated, edited and published by members of your community.

Project Organizers

Lissa Staley & Miranda Ericsson

Past Community Novel Projects


Revealed: Personal stories of growth and change
We each experience epiphanies and moments of growth. In these narrative essays, 20 writers reveal their personal stories and transformations in our community. These stories will challenge you to better understand the experiences of writers in the Topeka community and resonate with your own broader human experience.


Twisting Topeka
We each experience and envision our own version of Topeka. In these stories, 18 writers twist the past and future to explore alternate possibilities for our community. These stories will make you question what you know about the past and frighten you about what the future could hold.
Published September 2016.
Alternative history and speculative fiction short story collection, with a project focus on feedback and revision.


Time Harbor Cover 200Time Harbor
Readers can pick a path and follow one of three characters on time travel expeditions to Topeka’s past. In this prologue, get to know high school students Mai and Han and their history teacher Mr. Clark Detrick, and learn more about the Blast to the Past contest that is sending them from April 2050 to a very unique field trip experience. Don’t worry, the manual explains the safety medallion security features – what could possibly go wrong?
Serialized online beginning April 2015. 
Click on a character to pick a path into the story and see what happens next!


Superimposed Superimposed
Dead men tell no tales–dying men have one last chance. Joe Grimaldi has money and power but no time. HollyHiggins has all the time in the world, but no one to spend it with. As a hospice worker, Holly’s job is to help her clients make peace, even as she struggles with her own dark thoughts. As Joe’s web of secrets starts to unravel, Holly steps into a new role. She is sent across continents on a journey she doesn’t fully understand, to accomplish a task that is decidedly outside her job description. What life will Holly choose when Joe’s secrets are revealed?
Serialized online April through August 2014
A new twist to historical fiction. The first chapter begins in present day Topeka, and alternating chapters are written as flashbacks revealing the mysterious truth about one of the characters.
Spirits of Oz Spirits of Oz
Nico and Lola Espiritu have all the usual problems of 12 year olds—spelling tests, parents, sibling rivalry. Their parents are paranormal investigators who star in a struggling reality TV show, so for the most part the twins take the supernatural in stride. Then things really get spooky. The Spirits of Oz reach out for help to prevent an impending disaster, and it’s the kids they contact, not the adults. Are they brave enough to take on an otherworldly quest? Can they save the show, and maybe even the world?
Serialized online June through August 2014
This ten chapter pilot project encouraged kids and adults to write together and contribute illustrations.


SpeakEasy SpeakEasy
Grad student Ronni Long wants the past to come alive, but her centenarian source Julia doubts all the adventures of her long life should be revisited. Aren’t some things better left buried? In modern-day Kansas, Ronni Long interviews 108-year-old Julia, who doubts all the adventures of her long life should be revisited. As the mystery unfolds, Julia’s secrets and Ronni’s lies put both women in danger. Serialized online April to August 2013. It’s a chick-lit mystery with some history, written collaboratively by more than 20 local authors.


Capital City Capers: An Ad Astra Per Aspera Adventure 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, Kansas. When he is assigned the pet project of an ex-coworker, he must market the City of Topeka to its own residents. Kate Sanchez is fresh out of college, new to town, and interning on an underfunded project called “Topeka is Awesome” which will culminate in a big presentation in Los Angeles. Kevin and Kate both want the career opportunities that result from running a successful marketing campaign, and they know that massive failure won’t get them a ticket out of town. With the discovery of a hidden manuscript, suddenly Kevin and Kate are drawn into the mystery beneath the surface of the “Topeka is Awesome” project. The FBI is watching them, mysterious keys and messages appear, and shots are fired. Kate and Kevin do not know whom to trust. Things are not awesome for Kate and Kevin as they try to complete their project on deadline, satisfy the people with the power, and stay alive.
Serialized online May to September 2012
In this initial pilot project, the library created the premise and invited writers to each contribute a chapter to advance the group’s story. The story is set in Topeka and  uses landmarks and a setting that all will recognize.

The Story behind the Stories

The Past Projects Archive features behind the scenes documentation of the 2012-2014 projects.
The 2015 project is documented in Behind the Scenes – Time Harbor.
The 2016 project is documented in Behind the Scenes – Twisting Topeka.
The 2017 project is documented in Behind the Scenes.