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CBK Student Co-Authors Middle Grade Fantasy Novel During Pandemic

book cover and photo of merryman-lotze(February 1, 2023) Cedarbrook seventh grader Sylvie Merryman-Lotze co-authored Nightshade: The Ember Stone, the first book in a middle-grade fantasy series that celebrates the strength of friendship and the power of self-acceptance. She penned the book with her best friend when their schools went into lockdown in early 2020. 

The book, published by the Society of Young Inklings, is set to release on Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2023. A formal book launch will be held at Big Blue Marbles Bookstore in Mt. Airy on Sunday, March 5 from 2-4 p.m.

Merryman-Lotze, who started at Cedarbrook this fall, and her friend met in the first grade in 2017. By the time they reached midway through fourth grade, the pandemic was in full force, and they began the writing process. Throughout the past two years, the pair has collaborated virtually nearly every day to write their book. This past year, they joined the Society of Young Inklings Mentorship and Publishing program to prepare their book for publication. Nearly three years, and a quarter of their lives later, their book was published. 

“We were inspired to write a book together because there wasn't much to do during the beginning of the pandemic, so we had a lot of time on our hands to be creative. We started with the two main characters, the antagonist, and a basic storyline and then just started writing, having no idea where we were going with it,” said Merryman-Lotze. “At first, we based Flynn and Elodie on us, but as we wrote the story, they grew to have lives and personalities of their own. The best book is the one you want to write yourself into.”

Merryman-Lotze is taking creative writing with Cedarbrook challenge teacher Elizabeth Susanin, and is an active participant in the Philadelphia Young Playwrights. 

“Just go for it! You don’t need to have a whole lot planned out to start (we certainly didn’t), just characters and a basic plot,” Merryman-Lotze said when asked about tips for young writers. “You’ll want to make sure that you have a story that you’re excited to write about because sticking with it is probably the hardest part.”

Nightshade: The Ember Stone is available online through Barnes and Noble and other major online retailers. CBK students can also find it in the Learning Commons soon. All author proceeds go towards scholarships for other aspiring young writers through the Society of Young Inklings. 

The Society of Young Inklings is a non-profit organization that provides mentorship and publishing opportunities for young writers. Through the organization, Merryman-Lotze and her friend received 12 weeks of mentorship from children's book author Sonja K. Solter, who taught them how to revise their novel. Solter’s middle grade novel in verse, When You Know What I Know, is an ILA Honor Book and Colorado Book Award Finalist.

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