TEEN VOLUNTEERING SO POWERFUL IT INSPIRED A NOVEL
IDAHO FALLS, IDAHO, April 18, 2016—Award-winning author Colleen M. Story, who graduated summa cum laude from Western State Colorado University in 1991, encourages parents to make volunteering a priority for their teens.
When penning her latest novel, Loreena’s Gift, which was released by Dzanc Books in April 2016, she realized how powerful teen volunteering can be.
The novel follows a blind young woman who seeks to rescue her older brother from a dangerous and criminal biker gang. Story says what she found fascinating about the process of creating it was that the main character had to be blind.
“In the earliest stages of working on it,” she says, “it hit me that Loreena was blind. As a writer, that freaked me out, because I’m not blind and I didn’t know if I could write accurately from the point of view of a blind character. I called up my mom and said, ‘Mom, she’s blind! How am I going to do that?’”
But the book wouldn’t work any other way, so Story says she spent a lot of time typing on the computer with her eyes closed as she imagined what Loreena’s world would be like. It was over a year later, during the final edits for the book, that she finally realized where the inspiration came from.
“It hit me like a brick between the eyeballs,” she says. “Of course! When we create, we take those experiences we’ve had in our life and we reshape them into something new. Often, this is a completely unconscious process, which is why I didn’t see it at first. But then one night, as I was putting the finishing touches on the novel, I realized that the volunteering experience my mom had made possible for my brother and me when we were teens had an even more powerful impact than I had realized.”
When she was about thirteen years old, Story’s mother took her and her older brother to the National Federation of the Blind annual convention, which was held in Grand Junction, Colorado that year. They were there to volunteer, and their task was to meet the members outside of their hotel rooms, and guide them to whichever meeting room they needed to go to.
“We were told to stand just a little in front of them and offer them our arm, and then walk carefully without pulling or otherwise setting them off balance.” Many of the members were seniors, and some were unsteady on their feet.
After the first day, Story had made friends with one of the senior attendees who was at the convention, and she couldn’t wait to return Sunday to help him again. “I became his personal guide,” she says, “and I loved it. It was empowering, to imagine that just by spending a little bit of your time, you could not only be of real assistance to people, but you could learn a lot and make friends, too.”
Story recalls a moment her mom talked about for months afterwards, when the president of the federation, who was also blind, flew up the stairs at the convention hall in her smart red dress without a hint of a stumble. “We all wondered, how did she do that?”
Story is sure that her age at the time helped cement the experience in her memory. “It’s such an impressionable age. We remember music, fashion, and passions from our teen years so much more keenly and viscerally than we do in the later decades. That makes it even more important to have meaningful experiences that teach us how to be good people in this world.”
Indeed, studies have shown both health and educational benefits for teens who volunteer. According to the Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning & Engagement, those who do so during high school go on to achieve higher levels of education than their peers, and have higher scores in math, reading, science, and history, too.
Story remembers helping out at area nursing homes, serving as an assistant den mother for a cub scout troop, and even making space in her room for several foster sisters that lived with her family for years. But it was those two days helping the blind that helped create what is now her latest fiction release.
“It’s hard to understand it when you’re going through it, but as you get older, you begin to see how these experiences really shaped you. For me the biggest benefit was how it helped me to develop compassion for other people who maybe weren’t as fortunate as I had been. I began to see myself as lucky, and I became more grateful for the blessings in my life. What better result could you ask for?”
Well, maybe a deeply buried inspiration for a novel. That works, too.
Loreena’s Gift is available in paperback, ebook, and audiobook at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, IndieBound, and all other online book outlets. Story will be doing a book signing on April 30th, 2016, at the Grand Junction Barnes & Noble, from 2:00 – 4:00 p.m.
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Colleen M. Story writes imaginative fiction and is also a freelance writer, instructor, and motivational speaker specializing in creativity, productivity, and personal wellness. Her latest novel, Loreena’s Gift, was released with Dzanc Books April 12 2016. Her fantasy novel, Rise of the Sidenah, is a North American Book Awards winner, and New Apple Book Awards Official Selection (Young Adult). She is the founder of Writing and Wellness (writingandwellness.com), a motivational site for writers and other creatives. Find more at her website at colleenmstory.com, or follow her on Twitter, @colleen_m_story.
LOCAL AUTHOR SCORES IN NORTH AMERICAN BOOK AWARDS
IDAHO FALLS, IDAHO, November 9, 2015— Local imaginative fiction author and freelance writer Colleen M. Story of Idaho Falls was recently honored in the annual North American Book Awards.
Her new fantasy novel, Rise of the Sidenah, was named third place fantasy in this year’s competition. The novel was just released on September 24, 2015 with Jupiter Gardens Press and is Story’s first published novel.
“I’m thrilled with this recognition,” Story says. “It’s been a long journey to publication and it’s wonderful to get that little confirmation that you’re on the right track.”
Rise of the Sidenah follows the journey of a young sculptress forbidden from practicing her art, until a powerful man offers her an opportunity she can’t refuse. With promises of a new life, he draws her into a world of deceit and betrayal, until she’s accused of murder and confined to the dungeon in the depths of the mountains. She manages to escape, only to have the man she loves encourage her to engage her enemy in a final battle, to not only save her family, but prove to herself once and for all who she really is.
“This is a story about a young woman who has the courage to follow her intuition and her passion no matter what,” Story says. “Her actions end up hurting some people, but it’s the only way she can become who she was destined to become.”
A similar path exists for all of us, Story says, and it’s in listening to the heart and following where it leads that we are challenged and stretched in ways we never would be when settling for lives that don’t match our dreams. A lifelong musician, Story was on track to become a band director when she was drawn to the world of stories. She took the risk to try her hand at a few, and after selling her first short story, never looked back.
“Writing has stretched me in ways I never would have imagined,” she says, “and continues to do so to this day. It demands that I learn new skills and push the boundaries of my comfort zones so that I’m constantly growing. I wouldn’t be doing that if I had simply taken the easy way and followed the trajectory I was on; if I had ignored the whisperings of my heart.”
A freelance writer and editor for 18 years, Story founded “Writing and Wellness,” a motivational website for creatives, and has her first literary novel forthcoming with Dzanc Books in April 2016. She enjoys speaking to audiences about writing, self-care, overcoming self-doubt, and making dreams happen.
“Fifteen years ago I couldn’t tell you if I’d ever reach my goal of having a book published,” she says. “I know how difficult it can be to trust yourself and what your intuition is telling you. It often involves taking big risks. But it’s so worth it, in the end, not necessarily because of the material rewards, but because of how much more you become, as a person.”
Rise of the Sidenah is available in paperback and ebook at Amazon.com, as well as for the Nook at BarnesandNoble.com.
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C. M. Story writes imaginative fiction and is a full-time freelance writer, editor, and ghostwriter. Her writing can be found in a variety of health magazines and websites, and she also works with corporations like Fresenius Medical Care to create patient-centered communications. She plays French horn in the Idaho Falls Symphony and in other area music groups, and has taught music lessons for over twenty years. Rise of the Sidenah was inspired by gothic architecture, a tune by “The Calling,” and the idea that following the heart may cause pain, but is the only way to truly fulfill one’s purpose in life.
Story is available for interviews and appearances. For booking presentations, media appearances, interviews, and/or book-signings, contact email@example.com.