The ‘First Draft’ of an ‘Epoch’ adventure

East Troy High School freshmen from Claudia Felske’s honors English class sign copies of the books they wrote and edited as part of a project earlier this year. The two classes each wrote a book, titled “First Draft” and “Epoch,” and had a book signing at Ivan’s Backstage on the East Troy square May 16. (Eric Kramer photo)

Collaborative novels published by high school students

By Tracy Ouellette


With little idea of what the project would entail, a group of freshmen at East Troy High School collaboratively wrote and published two original novels this year.

The novels, “Epoch” and “First Draft” feature individual chapters written by 39 students in English teacher Claudia Felske’s accelerated freshman English classes.

“There were lots of late nights,” author and editor Lexi Olson said.

Tara Johnson, “Epoch” cover artist and author agreed, saying the books “took a long time.”

“I was surprised at the level of engagement from the students,” Felske said. “I really didn’t hear any complaining about all the work, and there was a lot. They were so internally motivated it was amazing.”

The authors/editors of “First Draft” show off their book’s cover at last week’s book signing with teacher Claudia Felske. (Eric Kramer photo)

Felske wrote the opening and closing chapters of the book – bookends on the experience of the protagonist and each student penned a chapter from the point of view of a teenager in a different time and place in history. From there, the students wrote, and rewrote, and edited and edited and edited for more than two months before their books were ready for publication.

Felske said she was “so very proud” of the fact that all the students in both classed were published in the books.

“They knew there was a standard that had to be met for publication, a certain level to be reached and they worked until they got there,” she said.

The teens chose diverse subjects and topic to write about, embracing difficult emotions and situations instead of shying away from them.

From forced labor to wartime inscription, the East Troy students wrote about heart-wrenching scenarios and filled two novels with their unique perspective and voice.

While not giving away too much about the individual chapters and their characters, the stories in the book are from a real-life group of students, writing about a fictional group of students, writing about epochs in history, all layers of writers and characters experiencing a complex examination of history and their place in it, Felske said.

The team that wrote “Epoch” proudly point to their book cover.  (Eric Kramer photo)

“We used Google Docs to write, edit, and organize the book, an Apple Pen to design the covers and annotate the book, Microsoft Word to format the manuscript, and Amazon’s CreateSpace to publish and distribute it. We also created a website and used social media to promote it,” Felske said.

The Apple Pen and iPad pro used to annotate the books were made possible by a matching grant from the East Troy Education Foundation and Ivan’s Backstage in East Troy hosted a book signing event on May 16. Felske said she and the students greatly appreciated the support from both parties.

And when asked if she would take on a project like this again, Felske smiled and said “Yes! How many high school freshman get to say they’re a published novelist?

But I would do it smarter the next time around, there are things I learned in the process to make it easier and better.”

The students involved include:

  • Epoch: Lexi Olson, Andrew Glass, Calvin Collins, Carlin Russell, Connor Knudsen, Emily Erman, Hannah Starr, Isabella Garzez, Mackenzie Betley, Madison Desing, Mac Dudkiewicz, Michael Rosin, Mikaela Scheer, Rorye Cieslik, Sarah Jurgensen, Sophie Donegan, Tara Johnson and Tommy Larson.
  • First Draft: Brady Barels, Brielle Bird, Zoe Dignan, Lauren Dufek, Gage Dull, Caleb Edwards, Eliot Felske, Carly Goetsch, Caitlin Hunter, Micaila Kingery, Delaney Kubiak, Jayna Mueller, Christina Nolting, Madeline Otto, Lucas Peterson, Zachary Preiser, Parker Schroepfer, Kellen Woods and Anonymous.

The novels are available for purchase on While each student retains the copyright on the respective chapters he/she wrote, the class decided that all proceeds from the novel will go to an East Troy scholarship fund. More information about the books as well as a free preview of the first chapter are available at

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