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Sandy Journal

Albion Middle students learn writing connects experiences with imagination

Jul 01, 2022 09:45AM ● By Julie Slama

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

“It may be best described as a James Bond movie with a teenage female protagonist.”

That is how Millcreek author Tiffany Rosenhan introduced her book, “Girl From Nowhere” to Albion Middle School creative writing and English-Language Arts students.

Shortly before school was out, the first-time published writer shared with students about her creative process and becoming an author.  She autographed books and some students, like seventh-grader creative writer Brooklyn Rosvall, already had read her novel which Brooklyn describes as “mystery and fantasy together,” while other classmates planned to read it this summer.

Albion librarian Bridget Rees said students learn more about writing from Rosenhan as well as Albion alum Sasha Peyton Smith, who wrote “The Witch Haven” and spoke earlier in the school year to students.

“Everyone has creativity inside them, and this helps them learn skills how to develop and share their creative selves and about the profession,” she said.

With reviews saying “Girl From Nowhere” is a “fast-paced spy thriller with enough twists and turns to keep readers entertained’ and “a breath of fresh air: a heroine that thinks for herself, shows love and gratitude for family,” Rosenhan said that her book has a 16-year-old girl living in Montana hoping for a normal life after traveling with her diplomat parents—only it isn’t easy to forget her previous years living in fear.

The book combines Rosenhan’s love and degree in political science and international relations with the passion of creative writing. Although her first thoughts were to join the foreign service or CIA, she ended up staying home with her four daughters.

“I started writing as a way to entertain myself; I was never good at writing in a journal, but when I created stories, I better understood myself and was able to process my own emotions and feelings by creating stories about others,” she said, adding that she writes more for herself than for the pressure of annually producing a book. “I think it’s important to remind ourselves that we might not know who we want to become professionally for a long time. So, while I thought I would be in the CIA doing cool stuff, instead, I chose to write about it.”

Creative writing became vital to her life.

“Creative writing is personal, something I do for myself. Embracing creative writing is a tool you have at your disposal to better understand who you want to be, to better process your own feelings, emotions and circumstances. It’s really a powerful tool to do that,” Rosenhan said, adding that she was able to hone on the skills she used as a child playing outside, building forts and castles out of cardboard.

In her own writing process, she often will research her topic. For example, in this case, how the girl lived internationally and learn about the countries and their culture, language, espionage and diplomacy.

“I love this interconnected world of geography, policy, tradecraft, spy craft, military, ballistics and read encyclopedias and Cold War spy thrillers since I was seven or eight, long before I ever understood it. Those topics interest me, but your creative writing should be rooted in what interests you,” she told students. “It should be this convergence point between who you are and what your experiences have been and what you are uniquely interested in because that is where the magic begins.”

Rosenhan addressed the way to start creative writing is “simply, by taking your first step.”

With her book, Rosenhan said she not only quickly introduces the character and subject, but it hooks the reader’s attention and desire to read more: “Another knock at the door—I seal my grip tighter around the pistol. I haven’t slept all night….”

Rosenhan said she not only got the reader’s attention, but filled her first chapter with intensity, action and mystery.

“When I originally wrote the first chapter, there were 50 pages. I cut 49 pages and not because they were boring, but through the process, I found where the story begins,” she said. “We have to trust authors know more about their story and characters than we do. However, it would be fun to have a section of the deleted scenes.”

Another tip, Rosenhan said is for students to make a one-sentence pitch for their story.

“That’s valuable because you have identified what it is you’re trying to write and it keeps you on your path,” she said, adding that an outline also allows authors to write more effectively.

Rosenhan is considering a series.

“I wanted this book to be an enjoyable read whether or not there is a sequel or prequel. I wanted it to be a book that you can enjoy as a standalone story. There’s no cliffhanger or trick, but I was careful about the setting and everything so it could become a series that is threaded together,” she said. “I love talking about the book, but my goal is to visit schools and discuss the creative writing journey to encourage students to find their own path to understand themselves and their world.”