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FARMER CITY — Ever since she can remember, Blue Ridge High School freshman Kelsey Crowley has been a writer.
“I’ve always been into making worlds our of words,” Crowley said last week. “It comes naturally to me.”
Her father, Todd Crowley, agreed.
“From a very early age, Kelsey was into being creative,” he said. “Other kids would be playing with toys, she would be drawing and playing with crayons.”
Which is why it was no surprise to her family and close friends that Crowley has published her first novel at just 14 years of age.
The novel, “Shooter,” is about 140 pages long, available in hardcover or Kindle edition, and can be found online at Amazon.com. The Blue Ridge High School library also has a copy, which Kelsey took time to sign last week.
“Shooter” is the first in an ongoing series which Kelsey continues to write — whether awake or sleep.
“I always dream about writing,” she said. “Sometimes I have a dream about a character and I wake up and get it on the page.”
The lead character in “Shooter” is Shopelle, a teen struggling to survive in the Gray City — a dystopian landscape resulting from an America rocked by nuclear war.
Shopelle’s fight is against the Amensiaed, a class of former humans infected by a medication that was supposed to have cured ongoing health problems.
“I’m always thinking about my characters. When I’m in the car, on the bus, walking through the hallway,” she said.
Prior to developing the characters and scenery of “Shooter,” she had written at least 25 other books or stories.
“Shooter” was in the works in July and August 2016, and the editing process began in September and lasted through December. Kelsey said she was her own biggest critic, but her mother Jennifer helped her in the editing process along the way as well.
“The editing took the longest,” Kelsey said, adding that she had to upload the writing to the Kindle app several times to make sure the pagination fit properly. She even designed the cover for her paperback book.
Once uploaded, when copies of the books are sold, a portion of the profits goes to Kelsey and the rest goes to Amazon. So far, more than 30 had been purchased since it was uploaded about a month ago.
Of all that have read it, Kelsey is not included.
“I am too afraid I am going to catch a typo,” she said. “I haven’t read the print copy yet.”
Kelsey is taking a bit of a break, but will continue on with the next installments in the Returner series in the coming weeks.
When she does, she will employ the same simple writing routine that seems to get the job done.
“We’ll just be watching TV and she will be sitting on the couch with her headphones on just typing away,” Todd said.
For Kelsey, “it just flows.”
She said she will sit down and type, starting in one spot and ending at another. When she gets writer’s block, she slogs through it and continues to type.
“Sometimes, when I start a book, I know how it is going to end,” she said. “And sometimes I even surprise myself with the ending.”
While the novel is dystopian in nature, Todd Crowley said he sees much of his daughter in the main character, Shopelle.
“I see a lot of the things she is going through in real life,” Todd said, adding that Kelsey is a fighter always wanting to “save everybody” as Shopelle does in the book.
He added that she is a “mother hen” to her younger brother, Caleb, 13, who was adopted from Haiti.
That Kelsey could put together a comprehensive work such as “Shooter” at just 14 years of age is a source of pride for her parents, but the book is by no means her greatest accomplishment, per their estimation.
“Kelsey is truly the miracle child,” said her mother, Jennifer, noting her daughter was born after just 28 weeks, weighing 2 pounds, 8 ounces.
“We all knew there was a chance she wouldn’t make it and we were on pins and needles,” Jennifer said.
The night Kelsey was to be brought home from the hospital, she stopped breathing 26 times, because her brain was not developed enough to send signals to breath to her lungs.
“The doctors told us that she had a very good chance of having mental and physical disabilities,” Jennifer said. “Needless to say, Kelsey fought her way.”
Just 14 years later, Kelsey continues to write her own story, both literally and figuratively, thanks to her family, her community and her power of will.
“Kelsey has been an outstanding student and has become a fantastic writer,” Jennifer said. “The schools have done an excellent job teaching this young lady how to creatively write and they deserve a lot of credit pointing her in the right direction.”
And as far as narratives go, the Crowley family excitedly awaits the next chapter.
“This new book is engaging and exciting, directed to a teenage audience,” Jennifer said. “But the most exciting story is not the fact she has written a tremendous book, but the life journey she went through to get this far.”