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Tracy Frank, Published February 08 2012

On the same page: Area teens write, publish novels

FARGO - Many writers dream of penning a novel, but few ever actually do it – especially as teens.

Yet three young women with ties to the area wrote and published novels before the age of 20.

Mattie Richardson, an 18-year-old from Sheldon, N.D., has written and published “Appaloosy” and “Dusty’s Trail” and is preparing to publish her third book, “Golden Sunrise.”

Richardson wrote her first book at age 13 after her family moved to Sheldon. She didn’t have any friends, and she really wanted a horse, so she wrote about one instead, she said.

Richardson didn’t have enough money to publish the book until she was 15 years old. She then wrote her second book and published it the following year.

Richardson’s book profits are minimal and most go back into reprinting additional copies, she said.

Richardson has been home-schooled since fifth grade but attended a public high school for a couple of weeks in October to try it out. She didn’t find it very challenging, so she graduated early and started college this semester.

She is now on a scholarship at Cottey College, an independent, liberal arts and sciences women’s college in Nevada, Mo., where her mom went to school. She’s pursuing a degree in English with a writing minor. She plans to become a high school English teacher.

When she was living at home, Richardson used to stay up late to write. Now that she’s in college she grabs a spare half hour whenever she can and tries to write for at least a half hour to an hour each day.

“I love writing, so that helped me mostly,” she said. “I was home-schooled, so I had a lot of time to do it because it counted as part of my school. I’m the kind of person who keeps up with something and keeps going.”

Richardson said she has sold almost 500 books and each sale is hard-earned.

“I go to events and I’ll have 20 people talk to me for every one book I sell,” she said.

Richardson sells her books herself, through Facebook, email, or over the phone.

Her books are historical children’s fiction.

Appaloosy is a 120-page paperback that sells for $7.95 on Amazon.com. It’s about an Appaloosa stallion determined to escape domesticated life to run free with a wild herd. After enduring multiple owners, the horse, Storm, comes to live with a young farm girl named Faith and decides he is content to live with her for the rest of his life until he is stolen by rustlers. When he escapes, he must choose between Faith and freedom.

Dusty’s Trail is a 90-page paperback that sells for $7.95 on Amazon.com. It’s about a boy who sneaks away from his family’s ranch in the middle of the night to join the Pony Express and his horse, Dusty, who is reluctant to go.

“Golden Sunrise” is also about horses, and Richardson is also writing a historical teen novel called “Blackberry Blossom” about a violinist set in the 1930s.

“I like writing the teen novel because it’s deeper than the children’s novels,” she said.

All of her books are also available on Amazon.com.

Richardson is thinking about selling her novels as ebooks as soon as she has time to format them.

“I like self-publishing because I’m my own boss and I can make my own schedule,” she said.

Richardson gives talks at elementary schools about writing. She also likes to do book signing events.

“It really encourages me when people like it,” she said. “I just do it because I love it.”

Makala Kopp

Makala Kopp, 20, of Beulah, N.D., wrote the Christian novel, “Called and Chosen,” under the pen name Hadassah when she was 17. After a year to get it published, she released her book last summer.

Kopp first became interested in writing when she started journaling as a 9-year-old. She was home-schooled and started her book in a high-school novel-writing course. She didn’t finish it during the class, but picked it up again after graduating. Kopp traveled to stay with her uncle in California to focus on finishing her book.

“Called and Chosen” is available at The Rainbow Shop in Fargo as well as on Amazon.com, Barnesandnoble.com, and www.winepress

books.com, a Christian self-publishing group. The book sells for about $19.99 in paperback format. Kopp is working on selling it as an e-book.

It’s a 340-page book about Eden Vanette, a young musician, artist and businesswoman in New York City who discovers adoption papers validating her Jewish heritage and a letter from her birth mother telling her she’s been chosen. She then travels to Israel where her grandfather is murdered and she is taken hostage by fanatics who want to destroy her and the ancient treasure they believe she holds.

The book involved a lot of research on Jewish culture, Kopp said.

“I was definitely learning and growing throughout the whole thing,” she said. “It was very challenging. I love the Jewish people and the roots of our Christian faith is Hebrew so I like to learn as much as I can.”

Her pen name, Hadassah, is the Hebrew version of her name, Makala. “My book is very centered on Hebraic culture, which is why I chose that.”

She also drew from her own journal entries.

“It’s not just notes from my story. It’s actually when God would speak to me and show me different things and show me that he wanted to have a personal relationship with me,” she said.

“I journaled those experiences and that’s really the heart of my book,” Kopp said.

Kopp has frequent book signings, including one coming up March 24 at Family Christian Stores in the West Acres Shopping Center.

Kopp is working on another novel with her sister.

Skyler DeGrote

Skyler DeGrote is a 19-year-old Minnesota State University Moorhead sophomore who is working on a trilogy called “The Soul Collection,” that deals with the paranormal.

DeGrote, who grew up in Maple Grove, Minn., started writing when she was 12 years old and decided in junior high school that she wanted to write something worthy of publishing.

“It was my life goal, so I feel like being this young and completing my life goal is really amazing,” she said.

Her first book, “Soul,” is a 190-page novel that sells for $7.95 in paperback form and 99 cents as an ebook on Amazon.com. It’s about a set of triplets reborn into each generation as demon hunters. The first generation put the devil in hell, but he found a loophole, and the current generation has to prevent him from taking over the world.

DeGrote started writing the book in December 2010, finished it at the end of April and published it in May.

She has sold more than 100 copies and just finished her second book in the series, “The Guardian of the Souls,” which she plans to release it at the end of this month.

DeGrote is an advertising major, and though she’s busy with classes, she still makes time to write around 15 to 20 pages a week.

“I am trying a new thing where I sit down and write something for at least five minutes every day, and it has really helped with writer’s block,” she said. “This semester’s classes are very time-consuming so I don’t know if that method will continue much longer but here’s hoping.”