February 27, 2019When officials with the Boys & Girls Club of Crawford County High School wanted to have a fundraiser, they wanted to do something that not only would raise money for the after-school program, but would also be meaningful for students.
"We really struggled trying to find something, and then one day somebody had the idea of writing stories," Anna Keibler, BGC recreational assistant, said. "I thought, 'You know, we should write a book. We should just compile a book. Students can just throw in whatever they want, and I bet the community would love the chance to read that.' "
Crawford County High School sophomore Hannah Merritt was the winner of a $50 Amazon gift card. Students who submitted entries to the "Pack Stories 2018" book were eligible for the drawing for the gift card. The book is a fundraiser for the Boys & Girls Club at the high school. Photo By Chris Adams
Students in grades 7 through 12, which the BGC serves, were asked to submit stories, poems and prose of any kind. To help encourage them, submitting students had their name entered in a drawing for a $50 Amazon gift card, won by sophomore Hannah Merritt.
"We got so many different stories and very few of them needed to be edited in any way," Keibler said.
In all, 11 students wrote for the book, titled "Pack Stories 2018."
"This book came out in January of this year, but it carries a 2018 title because we started compiling the stories in September of 2018," Keibler said.
With content ranging from spiritual experiences, to romantic fantasy, to historical nonfiction, the book is an eclectic mix. Several of the authors, including those touching on deeper subjects, chose to write under a pseudonym.
"We had a rap from a seventh-grader that brought (CCHS Principal Brandon) Johnson to tears all the way up to fiction, fantasy writing about somebody who's trying to come out as trans, and then you have Hannah's material, which is deeply and profoundly spiritual and religious and personal," Keibler said. "So, it's just this huge array of stories."
Merritt, who contributed about half of the 82-page book's material, said she became interested in poetry at a young age.
"When I was in elementary school, we would go over 'The Raven' by Edgar Allen Poe, and I really found that interesting. I just thought the rhyming in it sounded really neat," she said.
Merritt began penning her own poems when she was in the seventh grade. Her first poem — "People of the Sky" — is among her pieces included in the book.
"It make me think of when Jesus comes back," she said of the poem.
Merritt, who is of Cherokee descent, draws upon her heritage and spirituality when putting poems and stories to paper.
"Most of my writing is influenced by my religion, my ancestors, my family and what I believe in," she said.
Although Merritt self-published a book last year, she still finds it strange to see her writings in print.
"I never guessed that would happen," she said.
The book costs $8, with the BGC, after printing and shipping costs, earning $4. Regardless of how many copies of the book are sold, Keibler sees incredible value in giving students a place for their voices to be heard.
"So, the hope is that there will be a 'Pack Stories 2019' and a 'Pack Stories 2020' and kids will be given the opportunity to get their work out, get it published, have it read. Something that they can be proud of, they can show," she said.
Keibler said the book would not have been possible without Daniel Bullock, who did the formatting. Despite living in Pennsylvania and knowing of the BGC only through Keibler, whom he met while the two were in China, he has been one of the program's biggest supporters, having made several donations.
"I started telling him how I work here, and he said, 'I wish that I would have had someplace like that for me when. I was growing up,' " Keibler said.
The book is available for purchase from Circle A in Marengo. The book also may be purchased via debit or credit card by contacting the BGC at CCHS at 812-365-2125, ext. 2023 or by emailing Keibler at firstname.lastname@example.org.