One ruby-red, spiral-bound notebook. One vivid imagination.
In the hands of a fifth grader, these seem like perfect tools for idle time. And for Sarah Frank, they proved to be just that — a creative outlet. While squirreled away in her bedroom, she embarked on writing a "story" about orphans and magic, escalating adventures and time travel, never intending to share her writings with anyone.
Then she added a, "purple Sharpie" to the mix. And everything changed.
"Somewhere in the middle — maybe just after I ended a chapter with a character saying, 'We only have one chance' — I realized I liked the sound of those last two words and I decided to make One Chance the title," said Sarah, now a rising sophomore at Blake High School. "Once I wrote the title in this thick purple Sharpie (which definitely didn't match the ruby red) on the cover, it started to feel real.
"It was at that point that I knew I wanted to take it to the next level and publish it — to share my story and my characters with the world."
More than four years after that epiphany, Sarah peddles her first novel, One Chance, published last November by BeaLu Books.
While working on a 10-book series — the next installment will be Two Secrets — Sarah is accepting accolades.
Earlier this month, the Florida Authors and Publishers Association named Sarah a medalist for its President's Book Awards program in the Fiction: Juvenile Age 7-12 category. She'll learn Aug. 4 if she wins gold, silver or bronze.
It all leaves Sarah humbled, but appreciative of the work she put in over several years to bring the book to fruition.
"Honestly, looking back to see how far the book has come gives me a surge of pride," Sarah said. "From a story written in different pen-colored chicken scratch, trapped in the bindings of red plastic and my doubts, to being an award-winning novel that kids enjoy to read, it has certainly come a long way."
It's Sarah who helped bring the novel to life. After she wrote the first draft in fifth grade, she returned to it in sixth grade and did a complete rewrite. Then in seventh grade, another rewrite.
Each time she sharpened her focus, emphasizing character development and eventually employing storyboards.
The editing process proved valuable, and her fortitude left her mother impressed.
"Sarah's middle name is perseverance," Gail Frank said. "She's entirely self-motivated and it's been fun for us to watch her over the past four years bring her story to life."
Sarah, 15, also has found great reward in presenting her book during school visits. She has spoken to more than 1,500 students, embracing the chance to be a role model.
So much has risen from the simple start she created in the confines of her bedroom. It's a lesson for parents and kids: Never underestimate how far the creative juices can flow.
That's all I'm saying.