High school student Payton Todd used to be shy about sharing her writing, but her confidence has grown after winning a competition that will see her work published as a book.
Todd, 15, from Wood Mountain in southwest Saskatchewan, won the 2021 Young Author Competition that publishing company Wood Dragon Books held. The business announced recently that the 15-year-old had won the second annual contest and that it would publish the teen’s work in eBook, print and audiobook format.
The third annual Young Author Competition is open to teens who live in the Palliser Regional Library area. Youths must have a library card and be over 15 but under 18 by Sept. 1. Visit www.wooddragonbooks.com/young-author-competition/ for more information.
Todd, a student at Glentworth School, explained that she learned about her win in mid-February.
“I was very excited. The exciting part was being 15 and always kind of wanting to do something like this, and hearing that I actually was able to do it and that I actually got it done was the most exciting part,” she said.
“I was a really timid writer before I did this. And now I have so much more confidence in what I’m putting on paper, that I’ve just (been) noticing that I’m sharing more with people because this has just brought me out of my shell.
“I’m pretty happy with it,” she added.
Todd heard about the competition after seeing a flyer on a library bulletin board. She realized she was eligible since 15-year-olds could enter and she had just turned that age.
The high school student has been writing short stories since Grade 2, so she decided to enter to see if she could succeed. While the deadline to enter was July 1, 2021, she submitted her manuscript a month early.
“I just like being able to create something and share different ideas and perspectives with people that maybe they haven’t heard before,” Todd said.
“… science fiction is really popular right now, but the perspective is normally told through a really strong main character, and if you tell the story vicariously through the main character about another character, it turns it into something completely new.”
Todd’s story ideas come from “little ideas” that pop up during class discussions in history and English, she explained. Her inspiration usually develops when the classes analyze a Shakespeare text or learn about a historical movement.
The teen’s book is still being edited and has no title yet. However, the storyline involves five teens attempting to rebuild a post-apocalyptic society while sorting through the lies they’re told. The setting is like school since the characters face challenges, go through physical and mental exams and conquer new environments.
This is not the first work Todd has had published. A few years ago, she had a one-page short story published by Polar Expressions Publishing, which puts out a yearly book featuring teens’ work.
Her win with Wood Dragon Books is different, however, since the work being published is solely hers, she pointed out. While her previous work was one page, her forthcoming book is about 300 pages or 76,000 words.
Todd’s advice for aspiring authors is, “If you want to do it, just do it. You don’t have to write for hours on end every single day. If you’re in the mood to write, that’s when you do your best work. You don’t have to force yourself to sit there and write for hours.”
Wood Dragon Books received eight submissions during its second annual Young Author Competition and eventually settled on Todd and another teen as the winners, explained Jeanne Martinson, publisher and senior editor. However, the other teen could not devote enough time to the project because of life issues, so Todd was the remaining winner.
“She definitely had a full-length manuscript that is marketable and meaningful and might do really well out there,” said Martinson. “We’re really pleased that we’re able to publish her novel.”
Todd’s book — the first the company has published through this competition — is interesting, as its science fiction setting is gripping with a good storyline, she continued. Before the book is published this fall, it must go through several rounds of editing, cover design, interior design, and marketing, followed by more re-writes and edits.
“So, (the) process is not easy and it’s not quick,” Martinson laughed.
The book launch will occur online and in-person, including at the Penny University Bookstore in Regina and likely in Assiniboia, northeast of Wood Mountain.
One challenge with the contest that Wood Dragon Books faces is promoting the contest and finding interested students, said Martinson. However, Palliser has been a great partner in spreading the word, while school divisions in southern Saskatchewan have also been supportive.
This competition is a great opportunity for youths who want to be serious writers, she continued. There is plenty of commitment involved since the company will spend a year supporting the young writers through the production process.
“So, it really is about whether you see yourself as an author (and) if that’s your goal in life,” Martinson added, “because there’s a considerable amount of effort that has to come from the writer.”