A tale of mystery and horror is unfolding on three continents, and two Nebraska teenagers are right in the middle of it.
Randi Lee and Xiola Koile, 15-year-old sophomores at Platteview High School in Sarpy County, are co-authoring a fantasy novel with students in Australia and Russia.
The students take turns writing chapters, sending them back and forth on the Internet.
Platteview English teacher Jodie Morgenson, who put the girls in touch with an Australian professor coordinating the project, said the global collaboration “busts down the classroom walls, the school walls, our little corner of the universe's walls, and opens up the world to them.”
For the teens, the tag-team writing is a unique challenge and connects them personally with students in other countries.
“It's like raising a baby with a community of people,” said Randi, who plays percussion in the school band and is on the track and speech teams.
Morgenson, who is Xiola's mother, taught honors English last year at Platteview High but is mentoring other teachers this year. The novel project arose from the book club that Morgenson facilitates for Xiola, Randi and seven other girls, who named their club the Epic Awesomesaucesome Book Club of Happiness.
Morgenson got in touch with professor Ron Thomas at Wantirna College in Melbourne, Australia, via the Web-based International Education and Resource Network.
One of his students, Bridget Harding, wanted to write a global novel and penned the first chapter.
Harding sets a mysterious tone, describing a girl awakened by the ghostly voice of a golden stranger. The strange woman — golden hair, eyes, lips and dress — leads the girl through the darkness to a white door — a portal, perhaps. The encounter seems to be a dream, but Harding hints that it might have been real.
The Platteview High girls picked up the story there, introducing new characters and giving the story a dark turn in Chapter 2.
Then the novel headed off to Gymnasium 41 in Novouralsk, Russia, where students Vladimir Brattsev and Ekaterina Sedova continued the sinister mood in Chapter 3.
They sent the finished chapter back to Australia, where Harding is working on Chapter 4. The Platteview girls will write Chapter 5.
And so on.
“We go until it's finished, whenever that is,” said Xiola, who plays French horn, trumpet and piano and is on the mock trial and speech teams.
So far there's no title for the book.
The girls are impressed with the writing by their counterparts. The Russians, Xiola and Randi said, write in a formal style, even including footnotes. The Russians ended their chapter with the apocalyptic line: “The Heavens have opened wide, and God has stepped on the sinful earth.”
“Their writing ability impressed me,” Xiola said.
“We had to step up our game,” Randi said.
The Australian writer included great detail, stumping the girls with the word “doona” — an Aussie word for bedding, the girls said.
Once the book is done, the Australian school will print copies and send them to the girls.
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