It took a village and some teachers to help Cobb fourth grader write her novel

Diane Lore is a communications consultant for Cox Automotive Technology. Her daughter, Emily Ross, 13, is the author of "Blue’s Prophecy," a young adult chapter book set for release in March 2017.

This essay talks about how Emily's teachers in a Cobb County elementary school helped support her dream.

By Diane Lore

Hannah Hoy, my daughter’s fourth grade teacher, was vague on the phone: We need to talk.  There are issues.

I sighed. With two older, let’s say, “adventuresome” sons, I knew that tone. But Emily, my quiet 10-year-old daughter? What in the world could she have done?

When questioned that night, Emily, introvert that she is, shrugged her shoulders and mumbled she didn’t know why I would need to talk to Ms. Hoy.

When Cobb County student Emily Ross, 13, began her novel in fourth grade, she found support from her teachers. Her book is due out in 2017. (Photo by Bill Howard.)

With that vast wealth of knowledge, I sat down at a small, kidney-shaped table with Ms. Hoy. She was a first-year teacher; bright, enthusiastic and fun. But with hands clasped, she was also worried. Emily wasn’t paying attention in her class at all.

And it was all tied to that book.

Being a Not-Helicopter-Mom, I said, “What book?”

At which point, I learned about the novel that Emily was working on nonstop -- page after page after page, with the daily, dogged determination of Sisyphus. When she wasn’t working on the book, Emily was busy drawing illustrations or animation tied to its plot.

Of course, this was being done during math. Social studies. Language arts. Even during recess.

Okay, this was serious.

So Ms. Hoy and my hubby and I confabbed. We worked out a study plan with Emily where she could continue to write her novel – most often in the studio of her beloved art teacher, Daphne Hopkins – if she paid attention to her studies. The better she did at her academics, the more willing we were to put some muscle behind her book.

By the end of the fourth grade, four adults – two teachers and two borderline clueless parents – were backing a 10-year-old’s dream to write and publish her first novel.

When she graduated from Sope Creek Elementary, Emily had produced more than 40,000 words and 1,000 drawings. Emily was awarded a medal of “lifetime achievement” for her art from Ms. Hopkins.

How sweet, right?

Except the story didn’t end there. I promised Emily that if she completed the novel, I would guarantee that she would get at least a “box of books” from a printing outlet.

That became her daily mantra, and she finished. Because the manuscript was pretty amazing – says the mother – Emily received a multi-book contract from TitleTown Publishing, based in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Emily is the youngest author it’s signed.

This spring, Emily, proudly sporting her author badge, attended the gargantuan Book Expo America in Chicago, the largest book selling/publishing conference in the world. She met with sales teams who pitch to the largest booksellers in the world.  She got a shout-out in the Huffington Post, and her book, "Blue’s Prophecy", is on schedule and slated to hit the shelves next spring.

We’re all kind of in shock.

And whether she sells five books (Mom, Dad, Papaw, Brother #1, Brother #2) or a million, no one can take away the experiences she’s already had at the tender age of 13. The triumph of writing 60,000 words and receiving a small advance from a publisher. The tears – from sheer fatigue to arguing with her editor/mother about plot holes or prepping to meet book moguls. (No mumbling and shrugging of shoulders.).

She has learned there’s a time to strive for the stars, and a time to learn how to calculate the surface area of a rectangle. She has learned that few achieve greatness on their own, but are often pushed up by those who believe in them – like say, their teachers.

And I’ve learned that sometimes, it takes a village to notice the spark in your kid.  Many times, that village is a neighborhood school.

Thank you so much, Ms. Hoy and Ms. Hopkins, for reminding me of this. And please, if you happen to see Emily’s seventh grade English teacher, tell her we’re still working on the spell check.

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About the Author

Maureen Downey
Maureen Downey
Maureen Downey has written editorials and opinion pieces about local, state and federal education policy since the 1990s.