Not many children can say they are published authors; but Kayliegh Hall and other students at Azalea Middle School can, after their collection of short stories, Mismatched Mysteries, was recently released.

Hall’s short story, “Time Zone” is a science fiction tale about a young girl who takes an adventurous trip to outer space to find a lost friend and watch time stand still.

“I kind of wanted something fictional and fun,” said Hall about her story. “I thought it would be easiest to create something fictional that’s not from Earth.”

Mismatched Mysteries is the third edition of student-produced books through the Writer’s Block program — an after-school initiative created by Mark Gautreaux, owner of Forecastle Books, for middle school students interested in creative writing. Each year, participating students write their own short stories and create artwork for the book. In just nine weeks, Elora Rodriguez, Patrick Hatch, Abigail Dollar and Hall wrote stories that include magical powers, supernatural beings and animated fruit for this year’s book. Ashley Howell, R.E. Krebs and Hall created the artwork.

“We take the kids through a fairly extensive program of: what a short story is, and how to write a short story,” said Gautreaux. “If they already have a story, then they take it and run with it. If they don’t, we help them develop an idea.”

The stories the students produce are initially peer-edited, and then passed along to Carol Zocchi, English teacher at Azalea, who works with Gautreaux on the final edit.

Once the stories and artwork are finalized, the book is sent to the press, and is also published online through Amazon Publishing. The books are then sold at Gautreaux’s store, with each participating student receiving a portion of the sales. If more books are sold, the student-writers donate to a local charity of their choice. In past years, they have donated to Caitlin’s Cause, a local charity for children with cancer, as well as the South Coast Humane Society.

Hall said she initially became interested in writing after her fifth-grade teacher gave her an assignment to write a fiction story. Soon to be in 8th grade, Hall said she carries a journal with her wherever she goes. She also participated in last year’s book, with her short story, “A Star From Above,” which is the prequel to “Time Zone.” Hall said she plans to further develop the fictional world she created with these two stories and hopes to mentor future writers in the program.

In hopes to gain more participation next year, Zocchi said they plan to accept poetry and other literary works.

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