2018-05-01 / Up Close

Writer's Block

Middle schooler self-publishes Minecraft-themed novel
By Sara LaJeunesse | Photo by Rene Witzke

“The wind howled at the windows, shaking, battering, trying to get in…This was no normal hurricane, and I knew it.”

So begins seventh-grader Lucy Witzke’s first novel “Minewar: The Secret Prophecies,” which tells the story of a pair of siblings and their three cousins who become trapped in the game of Minecraft. The kids encounter numerous characters as they attempt to escape from the book’s primary antagonist. Ultimately, their goal is to escape from the game itself.

The book — which is the first in what will become a seven-part series — ends with the characters trapped in a Minecraft cave: “When he spoke, his voice was rough and grating, and his words, though few, were more frigid than any blizzard...The man laughed to himself...‘My name is Chase, and you will not leave this cave.’”

Witzke says the idea for the 314-page book came from the Minecraft-themed role-playing games she plays with her brothers, Leo, 10, and Eli, 8. “I was worried we would forget some of the complex characters and scenarios we had come up with, so I began to write them down,” she says. Witzke notes that her brothers helped with some of the book’s plot and character development. For example, Eli created the Chase character, while Leo came up with another character called Jason. Both characters feature regularly in the kids’ play.

I had all these ideas that poured out of my head onto the page, but then I had to put it all in the right order so it made sense and told a story.”

To write the book, Witzke spent four months at her iPad recording her thoughts, rearranging them, and turning them into a narrative. She often did this work on Sunday afternoons, while her family cheered on their favorite football teams in the next room.

“Writing the book was like putting together a puzzle,” says Witzke. “I had all these ideas that poured out of my head onto the page, but then I had to put it all in the right order so it made sense and told a story.” Witzke also uses a computer program to sketch some of the scenes in the book. “Illustrating helps me to visualize a scene so I can describe it in writing,” she says.

A student at the State College Friends Middle School, Witzke credits, in part, the many years she spent writing stories as part of the school’s writing-focused curriculum for her ability to produce the novel. She also thanks her community of Friends School supporters — fellow students and teachers — as well as her family, for their assistance.

Witzke’s language arts teacher Laura Beckley was particularly helpful. She was so excited by her student’s commitment to her book that she spent her free time helping to edit the story.

“When Lucy was in sixth grade, she organized magnificent, epic fantasy games for the younger children during recess,” says Beckley. “There were cats, fish, mermaids and frightening predators. The younger kids would follow Lucy around, spellbound, acting out the story, begging her for words and pictures and magic. That’s when I knew Lucy was a writer. I’m so proud of her.” 

According to Beckley, at State College Friends School, play-based learning is woven into the curriculum across grade levels. 

“Creative writing is what imaginative play can look like in middle school,” she says. “Writing like Lucy’s happens when students are given a safe, nurturing space to be children, to ask what if, to fantasize, to create, to play. We value childhood.”

On Christmas morning 2017, Witzke awoke to a surprise — a pile of identically wrapped presents. Opening them revealed 10 copies of her book, hardbound in a sophisticated blue, complete with an official ISBN code on the back.

“My parents surprised me by publishing my book,” says Witzke. “I was so excited.”

Witzke’s Minecraft-themed play with her brothers continues. As a result, her adventures as an author also continue in Book Two of the seven-part “Minewar” series. Titled “Minewar: The Wrath of Deathbrine,” the story, which Witzke recently completed, introduces a villain far worse than Chase.

“His hair looked like fire, red and orange sticking up from his head, making everyone wonder how he’d hidden it all under the hood...Call me Deathbrine.” Beckley is editing the book, and Witzke is writing the third book in her Minewar series.  

That’s not all. Witzke’s ultimate goal is to become a successful fiction writer, with books available to everyone. But the teen doesn’t want to write just any old fiction.

“I want to write crazy fiction,” she says, “just like my Minewar books!” •SCM

Ready, Set, Write!

For Schlow Centre Region Library’s 34th annual Write and Illustrate Your Own Book Contest, children in grades 1-6 were invited to put their creativity onto the page. From entries gathered this winter, Schlow librarians chose winners in four categories. These books will be bound and added as a permanent part of the Children’s Department collection.

White Cherry
By Han Li, Second Grade, Easterly Parkway Elementary

Sunny on the Pup Scouts Day
By Benny Gu, Second Grade, Radio Park Elementary

The Flightless Owl
By Maggie Gu, First Grade, Radio Park Elementary

Lovely Chicken
By Mae Schnable, Third Grade, Park Forest Elementary

Seaside Cats
By Lynette Hoffman, Fourth Grade, Gray’s Woods Elementary

A Royal Discovery
By ZaanuYA E. Anderson, Third Grade, homeschool

The Book People
By Ruth S. Anstrom, Sixth Grade, homeschool

Jacque’s Bravery
By Sorochi E. Anderson, Sixth Grade, homeschool

As Smart as a Fox
By Oliver Kotter, Fifth Grade, Gray’s Woods Elementary

By Evie Zhang, Sixth Grade, Park Forest Middle School

The Enchanted Garden 2
By Rachel Behringer, Fifth Grade, homeschool

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