Stanislaus County is about to write itself into history with its firstcommunity novel.
The Stanislaus County Library has organized the project, which has brought a diverse group of 15 writers together to pen a book. Each author will write one chapter, and the finished project will be bound and published in November.
The authors met for the first time Saturday to get to know each other and begin hashing out the plot to their collaborative work. Project members, selected from close to 40 applicants, range in age from 20s to 80s. They include published authors, a retired professor, a college student, a math teacher, a computer programmer and more.
Susan Lilly with the library said the first meeting went well and and their brainstorming session was successful.
“This is a dynamic group of authors, and we’re really excited about the direction this project is taking,” Lilly said. “One thing I was so impressed by was that it is a pretty large group to go through a creative project, but they really worked well together to refine the ideas and come to a consensus on the basics of the book.”
Those basics are that the novel will be a mystery set in Stanislaus County about a couple who find a trailer that had been submerged in an area waterway, but is now visible because of the drought. The couple then try to piece together where the camper came from and to whom its contents belong.
Each author has two weeks to turn in an edited draft. The first draft will be given to the next author a week into the process, and so on until the final chapter.
Modesto resident Jennie Bass, 39, is writing the fifth chapter of the novel. The Oakdale High School math teacher has e-published one novel, a romantic comedy, and has been writing since college. She said the freedom each author will have with his or her contribution is exciting, but also stressful.
“I think it’s really neat,” she said. “At first it was nerve-racking to not have any idea where it’s going. But now I think it’s fun. It’ll be interesting to see what people do and how we deal with what people have done.”
Getting all the disparate voices and writing styles on the project to mesh will be one of its greatest challenges. First chapter writer Micheal Maxwell, a teacher at Elliott Alternative Education Center in Modesto, said each author will be dependent on the next to make sure the story flows and makes sense.
“The personalities at that table were so varied,” said the 61-year-old, who has e-published four mystery novels and a novella. “We have a couple of people who write cyborg sci-fi, one gal who likes to write paranormal thrillers and a couple of children’s authors. It’s an interesting bag. We’ll shake it up and see what comes out.”
The novel will begin publishing a chapter a week on the library website in April. During the writing process, there will be a contest for a local artist to create the book’s cover art. The completed work will be published online, in audio format and in print. A book launch will be held Nov. 16, which will feature “Lemony Snicket” series author Daniel Handler.