It’s been a year ago, but Daniel Peek remembers lying on the floor of the Clinton Middle School gym — he was on the red part of the key under the goal — and writing his winning …
It’s been a year ago, but Daniel Peek remembers lying on the floor of the Clinton Middle School gym — he was on the red part of the key under the goal — and writing his winning entry. It was the day that author Stephen Kozan visited the school and challenged the students to enter one of his publishing company’s “Flash Fiction” contests by writing a narrative passage for a book in 15 minutes.
The prize: having your book published by Kozan’s publishing company, ReadyAimWrite Kids, which publishes books written for kids by kids.
Last Friday, Daniel, who is 14 years old, was back in the gym for the launch of his book, “Wings of a Bird.”
Kozan took the entries from the three grades at CMS, a total of almost 400 students, back to Pennsylvania and chose two finalists, out of which he picked Daniel’s as the winner. Kozan, who made the announcement to the school via video, said both the entry by Peek and the one by the other finalist, Maeghan Scott, were good, but he found Daniel’s more creative. Daniel’s entry was about a boy who fights dragons, dark dreams and a witch to lift a curse and in the process, masters his powers and conquers his past.
Daniel was born in Kansas, and has lived in Clinton since he was adopted by Jeanne and Charles Peek when he was two and half years old, Jeanne said. Her husband, who was battling cancer at the time, passed away three months after signing the adoption papers. Jeanne also adopted Daniel’s two brothers and his sister, and is now raising five children, ages 10 to 17, of which Daniel is the next to oldest.
She and Charles also adopted four other children, who along with their two children and a step-daughter, added up to a family of 11. Six of the children are grown. Daniel’s oldest sister and family friends attended the book launch and signing.
Clinton Middle School principal Jill Chapman welcomed friends, family and guests, including Clinton Mayor Carla Moberly, school board members, district administrators and former teachers. Jenny Corson, former CMS principal, described how author Stephen Kozan spoke to the students on his visit about the process of writing a book, and recalled the students covering the gym floor, busily writing.
Jim Kalberloh of Lowry City, R-state representative for Henry and St.Clair counties, presented Daniel with a framed resolution from the state legislature, commending the eighth grader for his accomplishment of becoming a published author.
CMS librarian Kiera Green interviewed Daniel about his writing regime. Daniel said he wrote the book the past summer, working in one-hour increments, then taking a break. Background music helped with the process, he said. What surprised him:
“My writing skills improved as I wrote the book,” Daniel said.
Clinton Middle School staff and the student body of 6th, 7th and 8th graders attended the book launch, which took place after lunch, and lined up to have a book or bookmark signed by Daniel.
As the winning author, Daniel received a contract, and was assigned a due date for submitting his manuscript and a date he would start designing the illustrations. Daniel likes to read, write, create and draw, Jeanne said. He drew the cover illustration for the book and also the inside illustrations, she said, and is already planning a sequel.
“He’s always been a bright kid,” Jeanne said.
Daniel said he completed the book with the encouragement of his mother, who CMS Principal Chapman thanked for impressing on her children how important education is. Jeanne works full-time as a direct support staff in Strasburg, Mo., near Pleasant Hill.
The Peek family also includes Miss Patsy, the woman who brings the Shetland ponies to Olde Glory Days for the pony rides. In 2015, Jeanne met Miss Patsy, and when she learned that Patsy, who is from Oklahoma, was battling cancer and having trouble finding a place to park her trailer, Jeanne invited Patsy to park the horse trailer, which has her living quarters, at the Peek’s house.
She’s come back and stayed every year, Jeanne said.
“The kids love the ponies,” Jeanne said. “She’s become family to us.”
The summer visitors to the Peek home, along with Daniel’s four siblings, the family’s three dogs and their three cats are mentioned on the back cover of the book.
“Wings of a Bird,” written and illustrated by Daniel Peek, is available from ReadyAimWrite Kids of Harrisburg, Penn. Soft cover. 52 pages. $15. Authors receive royalties on books sold. To order or for more information about Stephen Kozan and his Flash Fiction contests, go to kidswritestories.net.
“Wings of a Bird” is also available at the Clinton Middle School office, 600 E. Clinton St., Clinton, Mo., for $15. The school ordered 50 copies and has sold all but 12, but can order more, librarian Kiera Green said.
Stephen Kozan is the author of four books for middle readers: “The Great Green Tree and the Magical Ladders — Metropolis, and the sequel, “Suburbia,” both fantasies about a child who goes on magical adventures, “Town” and “The Journal of a Lifetime.”
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