Being a novelist is no longer as glamorous as it once was, though the profession is still as important today, if not more so than ever before. Yes, a book is a form of entertainment, but it is also the key to helping each of us better understand who we are, and how we interact with one another; though literature has the power to lead us to fantastical worlds, it also helps us journey further into our own.
Author Jaimie Engle understands the unique power that words have. She tells me that, as a child, when reading Alice in Wonderland for the first time, “I remember being on that boat and gasping, and then I was in my room.” From that point forward, she decided she would also become a storyteller.
Engle has authored several books, most for children and young adults, and for her, the storytelling is twofold. Yes, she wants young readers to be excited about the adventures upon which they will embark when reading one of her novels, but she also hopes they learn about kindness, patience and compassion.
Her first novel, The Dredge, is a YA Sci-fi/Fantasy novel. Though readers are taken somewhere they’ve never been, Engle says the book has a much deeper meaning. “I didn’t realize, at first, that this book was about bullying,” says Engle. “But as I looked at it, I realized that it was.”
Since her realization that she had subconsciously written a book that tackled bullying — born out of a time when her own son was being bullied while in school — she decided to try to use the book as a way to teach teenagers about the power of words. So, she began to visit local middle schools and created an anti-bullying presentation built around the book.
“When I work with kids, I try and get them to see the world through the eyes of their peers,” says Engle. She asks the students, “If you know someone is acting ‘off,’ couldn’t you ask them if they are okay instead of assuming they are being a jerk? Maybe their parents are getting a divorce or their dog just died… you never know what people are going through and sometimes, they simply need a friend.”
Years after one of these presentations, a boy told Engle’s son that her presentation had saved him from killing himself. For Engle, this is a reminder of why words are so important and is one of many motivating factors for her to keep writing.
Engle not only speaks at local schools, but has been a guest speaker at Barnes and Noble, and recently spoke at the FAME conference in Orlando, FL, where she spoke about how cosplay is a way to story build and build character.
“I love the cosplay,” says Engle. “It connects you to readers in a different way.”
Engle was just recently picked up by a publishing company, and through them, she will re-release her book The Dredge, as well as the other books in the series. She also just recently released, Write a Book That Doesn’t Suck, a non-fiction guide for aspiring novelists in need of some guidance.
We’ve all heard the old adage, “The pen is mightier than the sword.” Our words have power and it’s up to us how we use them. For Engle, the answer is easy: she is using her power for good.