As fourth-graders at Hannan Magnet Academy, Princess Graham and her classmates were asked to write about a lonely child that didn’t fit in.
English teacher Jennifer Sullivan gave the students only 10 minutes to complete the prompt exercise. And when it was over, Princess had produced what would later become an award-winning story about a poor, homeless girl who feels like a shadow and later becomes famous.
After revising the story for the statewide Young Georgia Authors 2016-2017 competition, Princess went on to win first place at the district, regional and state levels. Now, she has turned the story into a book titled, “Shadow,” now available on Amazon.
“Writing prompts, sometimes they inspire me, sometimes they don’t,” she said, while sharing her story with the Ledger-Enquirer. “… . “That prompt that Mrs. Sullivan gave me inspired me, so this happened.
Princess had just finished an interview on the Dee Armstrong Show. She was accompanied by her mother, Tamara Chandler, and her publisher, Barbara Pierce, a former educator and Muscogee County School Board member.
“I’m so proud of her,” said her mother. “I tell her all the time, ‘You know, if you want to draw, draw. If you want to write, write. You know you can do both, and illustrate your own books.’ ”
Princess took her advice and illustrated the story while attending a summer camp that Pierce organizes every summer for children with strong leadership abilities. Pierce, also a children’s book writer, had Princess play a starring role in a play based on one of her books, titled “Janet from Another Planet.”
Pierce, owner of the Unique Euphony Publishing Company, said she was drawn to Princess’ story after hearing about it at a Muscogee County School Board meeting in May, during which Princess was recognized by board members for winning the statewide competition.
“Being that I have such passion for children is why I think I spotted it so quickly at the school board,” she said. “I heard them talking about this, and I said, ‘Wow, this is great. Maybe we need to start working on developing some younger writers.”
Sullivan said Princess was just a joy to have in her fourth-grade English class.
“Princess is very creative, she wants to be a fashion designer when she grows up,” she said. “She’s also interested in writing and illustrating. She’s that type of child that’s very enthusiastic and talented and creative.”
Now that she’s an author, she’s practically a celebrity at the school, Sullivan said, and she’s featured on the school’s message board.
“She’s really influenced my students this year,” Sullivan said. “I had Princess come into the classroom and read her story out loud, and my students all looked at her like this famous person. They’re all writing their own books now.”
Sullivan said Princess’ story was successful because she used a lot of figurative language and told a story that connected with children.
“I think a lot of our fourth-grade students really do feel like they don’t fit in and like they don’t have a voice, and her story really illustrates somebody who feels down on themselves, and then they go on to do great things in their future,” she said. “I think the moral of the story is don’t give up, keep pursuing what you love, be passionate about what you love. And even if you’re not recognized today, in your future, if you keep pursuing your dreams, they will come true.”
Photo Credit: Piet Van Waarde