• Author visits Patton Junior High School

  • Reading and writing are both part of a well-rounded education, but getting students interested in those subjects isn't always easy. To help the students get their creative juices flowing, Patton Junior High School hosted author and ghost-hunter Jessica Freeburg for a talk and book-signing reception March 18 at the school.

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  • Katie Peterson | Staff Writer
    Reading and writing are both part of a well-rounded education, but getting students interested in those subjects isn’t always easy. To help the students get their creative juices flowing, Patton Junior High School hosted author and ghost-hunter Jessica Freeburg for a talk and book-signing reception March 18 at the school.
    “An author visit lends credibility and authenticity to the reading and writing process,” said Kelly Funk, Patton library media specialist. “When students have the opportunity to meet and talk with an author, they see themselves as real writers. They can identify with the writing process.”
    Freeburg said she loves visiting schools to give talks.
    “That’s my audience for most of my books,” Freeburg said. “As a former teacher, I love kids. I love teenagers especially because I taught high school and middle school, so I definitely like getting in front of them again. I love their energy.
    “It also shows you and reminds you who you’re writing the books for and gets you excited to write more books, and it is fun to see their reactions, too,” she said. “I get excited to see their reaction to the paranormal piece of it because I know that I’m sneaking history into ghost stories; they’re learning about the history of our nation and they don’t really notice that they’re learning about it.”
    Freeburg said she started writing stories and poems in middle school when she received her first typewriter, but it was her favorite childhood book, “Trick or Treat” by Richie Tankersley Cusick, that inspired her love for the ghost and horror genre.
    “I literally read it every year around Halloween time. My personal copy is tattered, torn and falling apart, but it is just one of those stories that is a good, creepy almost ghost story, murder-mystery type thing and I just really loved it a lot,” Freeburg said. “I like dark stuff. I don’t know why.”
    Freeburg delved deeper into writing after she decided to be a stay-at-home mom following the birth of her son.
    “During that time, I was reading a lot of picture books to (my three children), and I thought ‘Oh, I love writing. This would be a good opportunity. I should totally write a picture book.’ So, that’s where I started out,” Freeburg said.
    However, Freeburg said picture books didn’t pan out for her because she was writing up to 5,000 words while a typical picture book is 500 words at most. When editors suggested she focus on writing a novel instead, she said she was nervous but tried it, which led to the publishing of her first novel, “Living in Shadows,” in 2015.
    Page 2 of 3 - “It was kind of homage to my favorite book as a child,” Freeburg said.
    However, this wasn’t before she spent more than a year building a platform at the advice of her literary agent.
    “Basically, she wanted me to connect with readers before I had anything to sell them, which was kind of weird, and I didn’t know how I was going to do that,” Freeburg said. “So, I thought, ‘OK, the book is about a girl who sees ghosts, so clearly, I should go ghost hunting like all those shows I like to watch on TV.’”
    Her first ghost-hunting adventure to the Palmer House Hotel in Sauk Centre, Minn., led to her forming a ghost-hunting group with fellow authors. Together, they visited places like the Morris-Jumel Mansion in N.Y.; Deadwood, S.D.; and the Washington County Poor House in Stillwater, Minn. She also became a paranormal news correspondent for a Fox podcast, was a keynote speaker at several events and produced a documentary.
    “Building the platform totally worked because (the book) came out and debuted as a No. 1 bestseller on Amazon the first day,” Freeburg said.
    Freeburg has authored and co-authored six novels and a graphic novel inspired by these ghost-hunting trips.
    “If you have a passion, grab onto it and do your thing with it however you can,” Freeburg told the students. “I encourage that in writers, too, because you need to write what interests you. So, if I try to write books about stuff that I think is boring, I’m not going to have fun doing it and it is probably not going to be a great book. So I really embrace the pieces of myself and incorporate that into my writing.
    “It is kind of overwhelming when you think about all the details that have to go into a book and all the stuff you have to remember. There (are) 1,000 different ways to write a story, 1,000 different ways to make a character,” she said as she answered students’ questions. “Don’t overthink it. Puke it out, then clean up the mess later. That’s what you have to do. Otherwise you’re going to get stuck.”
    Freeburg said the students shouldn’t be afraid to call themselves writers.
    “If you write, you’re a writer,” she said. “You can call yourself that and own it and the minute you start to own that piece of who you are, you become more confident in your writing. So, if you write, you’re a writer, period.”
    Patton eighth-grader Emma Jordan, 13, said Freeburg was inspiring.
    Page 3 of 3 - “I like ghosts and stuff, too, and (ghost hunting) is something I kind of want to do when I’m older,” Jordan said. “So I thought it was really interesting.”
    Patton seventh-grader Melanie Libby, 13, said she learned a lot about writing.
    “I learned that with writer’s block, just keep writing,” Libby said. “I also learned how hard it is to write nonfiction stuff because there’s not enough accounts sometimes or there are too many other times. I like to write mostly fiction, every kind of fiction.”
    Patton eighth-grader Garrett Schmitz, 14, said Freeburg’s talk was interesting.
    “It would probably encourage people to keep trying what they love and to keep trying to find new ways to learn new things and to go out into the world and try their best to achieve their life goals,” Schmitz said. “I learned that anything can be achieved as long as you do your best work and try your hardest.”
    For more information, visit jessicafreeburg.com.
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