High school author inspires young writers

Published 12:27 am Saturday, November 13, 2010

NATCHEZ — Being told by teachers “you can do anything” is one thing, but when an 18-year-old published-author visited Cathedral School Friday students witnessed it firsthand.

Leigh Martin, a high school senior from New Orleans, allowed Cathedral students to pick her brain Friday when she presented her fantasy-fiction book “Destiny” to students and answered an endless number of questions.

Martin spoke to grades 3-8 in the gym about her book, which was published last Christmas.

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“It was the best Christmas present I could ask for, except for snow,” Martin said.

But the more serious writers and readers among the Cathedral enrollment were selected and invited by their teachers and the librarian to sit down with her and talk Harry Potter, swap funny stories and get tips on writers-block.

Martin sat at a table in the elementary library with students of all ages, who hovered around her with wide eyes and raised their hands to be called on.

To a question from fifth-grader Hannah Jenkins on writers-block, Martin recommended going on a walk when the ideas stop flowing, or asking her parents for ideas.

Jenkins said she never really struggles with a loss of ideas.

“All the ideas rush through my pen, and I don’t even know I’m doing it,” Jenkins said.

Martin also recommended carrying around an idea book, because she said ideas hit writers at anytime, from anywhere.

Fifth-grader Bailey Thompson brought a play she wrote as an 8-year-old to show Martin.

“Last night I read it and it seems so funny to me,” Thompson said.

Martin told Thompson she should keep all of her old “stuff” and review it occasionally because looking back helps writers grow — plus it can be interesting.

Martin agreed to look at Thompson’s story when it is completed about a girl who moves to Texas.

“I might even be able to use your publisher,” Thompson said.

Martin, a relative of elementary librarian Leah Anderson, said she had the idea for her story since she was 10 — and writing it down was simply self-preservation.

“It was in my head for so long it needed to break free,” Martin said.

Martin said she first starting jotting the ideas down when she was 15, during spring break, and her little sister suggested she publish it.

Her book is about a girl named Destiny taken in by a family of lions who searches to learn about her past.

Martin said she loves the idea of putting her work out for the rest of the world to read, which includes seven students at Cathedral that have passed around the librarian’s single copy of “Destiny.”

Eighth-grader Julia Rachel Kuehnle, who has won the Daughters of American Revolution essay contest, said meeting Martin inspired her.

Kuehnle and her friends said they were surprised Martin was so easy to talk to and approachable, because of what she has already achieved at such a young age.

“She’s just a regular person, and she did it,” Martin said.

“If you have a dream you can achieve it,” Kuehnle said.