It may be every writer's dream to publish a book, and for one Columbia girl, that dream has come true at a very young age.
Carolyn Neuman, 11, wrote "Adventures With the Winglets" over the course of one year, and in November 2012, after it had been published by Trafford Publishing, she was able to hold her own book in her hands.
"It made me excited, and proud," said Carolyn, a sixth-grader at Patuxent Valley Middle School in Jessup.
Carolyn's book is broken into three sections that tell the story of Chrissy, a young girl who discovers a magical new world by traveling through a tree.
Local readers may recognize the gateway to the Winglet's world — it was inspired by the old, gnarled tree near the snowball stand on Route 99 in Woodstock. Carolyn visited the stand with her grandmother, who has a section of the book dedicated to her.
"She told me I should write about it," Carolyn said.
So she started writing. When she took the draft with her on vacation last summer, her aunt encouraged her to try to get the story published. So she and her family began scouring the Internet for publishers, and settled on Trafford — a company for self-publishers.
Carolyn, her teachers and her family put her manuscripts through several edits before sending a final draft on Halloween. The book was published Nov. 14, 2012. Printed on-demand, "Adventures with the Winglets" is available in hard and e-book form, and can be purchased online through Barnes & Noble and Amazon.
Editing is difficult, Carolyn told students at Hammond Middle School, where she was invited to speak Jan. 18. A close working relationship with an editor is important for a writer, because sometimes things change in the writing process that should not be changed, Carolyn said.
She gave the class a quick lesson in punctuation as an example: with just an addition of a comma, a phrase can be transformed from an elderly relative's death sentence to an invitation to a meal. "Lets eat Grandpa," Carolyn said, becomes "Let's eat, Grandpa."
"Commas save lives," Carolyn said.
Leslie Axtell, a Hammond sixth-grader, said she was surprised and amazed "that you got one of your books published at such a young age." Leslie said she would "possibly" like to be a published writer one day.
"I knew our students would be extremely excited about it," said Hammond media specialist Ellen Levin. "Some of the other budding writers are tad envious, but not in a bad way. Certainly for those students, and all our students, Carolyn is a role model — not just because she writes, but because she keeps going with it even when she gets stuck, even when it's not going well. She has so much perseverance that I think, whether it's writing or something else, it makes her a great role model for our students."
Carolyn's media specialist at Patuxent Valley, Jessica Pistorius, said it was important for students to see others their age accomplishing their dream, especially when so many kids dream of becoming writers.
"Kids sometimes put authors up on this super-high pedestal and think, 'Oh, I could never become that.' But to see someone who's transcended just being a regular, every-day student to actually publishing their own work can be really inspiring," Pistorius said.
Carolyn's mother, Samantha Neuman, agreed. Carolyn hits "kinks" in her writing just like anyone else, Neuman said, she just keeps writing through them.
"There was no magical moment, an 'Oh, I can be an author,' " Neuman said. "She just loves to write, and she kept writing and wrote more and wrote more."
Carolyn, who has been reading and writing nearly all of her life, said she likes "hearing how things sound in books." The written word just sounds good, she said.
"I would just make things up, in book form, just to hear how they sounded," she said.
The young author had some advice for aspiring writers — don't give up.
"If you know you have a good idea and you like it, but don't know what to say, just keep thinking about it, just keep writing about it," she said. "Just get it down. You can always add more details after you have something on paper."