By: Follow South Jersey Staff
WASHINGTON TWP., N.J. — Washington Township High School junior, Sydney Cella, has turned a classroom assignment on narrative writing into her debut book, “The Magical Woods.”
The 16-year old also illustrated and self-published the book, making her work available for sale for $9.99 on Amazon this past summer.
“I started writing The Magical Woods in the Fall of 2019,” Cella said. “It was a narrative assignment for my 10th grade English class, and I ended up writing a lot more than I had to. I created a fantasy story that takes place in the woods in the winter and that has this magical element to it, with new foreign characters that no one has ever heard of. Something that was different. Once I realized that I liked the concept, I just started writing more and more and more. And then it got really long, and I decided to put it into a book.”
Cella explains the synopsis of the story, targeted for readers aged 9 to 11, like this:
“The woods have secrets beyond belief. Two best friends. One magical mystery. For two middle school girls, Alex and Mia, life is about to get much more complicated. After a huge snowstorm overnight, a normal day of sledding turns into a magical adventure. They meet whimsical creatures, including Mr. Chill, a snow person. Mr. Chill lives in a calm part of the woods, Snowtown. Through a turn of events, the girls find themselves transported into the world of the snow people, as they meet an unexpected enemy. They must decide what to do. If they help the snow people, they could stay lost in the woods for eternity. Follow Alex and Mia as they prepare for the adventure of a lifetime.”
“The inspiration that I had for this book came from memories of my brother and I going sledding in the wintertime,” Cella said. “There was a hill behind our house and then woods. I always thought it looked so beautiful and magical in the woods. That’s really where the idea came from. I built off that idea and what is actually happening in those magical woods.”
Cella devoted six months to the 49-page project, making use of her time during the pandemic, writing the first draft in three weeks, spending two to three months in the editing process, additional time working on the illustrations, and then time spent researching the publishing process.
“For publishing, I looked up a lot of videos online, what the process is and how to start,” Cella said. “There were two different ways to do it. You could traditionally publish it through a publishing company, or you could self-publish. I decided to self-publish because I thought it would be really cool to have a book out on Amazon. And also, I wanted to try the whole process out myself. I created my manuscript and book title through Amazon. I found a lot of my resources on YouTube and the internet.”
Cella dedicated the book to her dog, Markey, and thanked her family for their consistent support and for always encouraging her to try new things.
“I’ve always enjoyed writing and the editing process, and writing fantasy has always been my favorite genre,” Cella said. “When I was in elementary school at Birches, a lot of my teachers would compliment me on my writing. The high school teachers have really helped me a lot. They have helped me discover opportunities for writing contests.”
“Our English teachers work hard to inspire students and give them the tools to be effective readers and writers,” Melissa Barnett, district English and Language Arts Supervisor, said. “It is fantastic to see students like Sydney develop their voice as a writer and chase their passions. She is such an inspiration, and we can’t wait to see what more lies ahead for her as a writer.”
Barnett said she would be purchasing copies of the book, making it accessible to the District’s middle and high school students.
“I would love to keep writing books,” Cella said. “I would love to write a young adult book in the future and maybe have another one out before the end of high school. I’m not really sure about college yet, but I would love to do something in writing.”
Until then, Cella is hopeful that everyone who reads her book enjoys it and gets into the story and the characters. “It was a really fun experience,” she said.
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