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Pa. teen authoring books that focus on Christian themes

September 08, 2006|by JENNIFER FITCH

WILLOW HILL, PA. - Spread on the table in front of Erik Sollenberger were copies of his 180-page book that sells on Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble's Web site.

Tucked underneath the table was his high school science textbook.

The author presenting his book to Fannett-Metal middle and high schoolers on Wednesday morning looked like them, spoke like them, dressed like them and made plans to go to a soccer game later that day with them.

"A lot of people are really impressed by my age," Erik said.

The 17-year-old has been selling copies of "Crucifixion" this summer, has "Man-made Monster" in the editing stages and has written 50 pages of a third fictional book. All three reflect Christian values and themes.

While his books and short stories have meant years of work, the high school junior still struggles with a short attention span. It's actually that mind wandering that benefits his writing, Erik said.

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"When I'm writing, I get to drift into my own little dream world," Erik said.

The characters, some based on people he knows, then live, function and develop in that world, he said.

"If you are connecting to a character, your audience is connecting to the character," said Erik, who is active in the youth group at Carrick United Methodist Church in Fort Loudon, Pa.

His audience now includes teachers and students, who are asking to be included in future stories. Erik has sold 200 of his 500 copies of "Crucifixion," mainly at community events and through Christian Light Bookstore in Chambersburg, Pa.

The story about Tommy Peters, a high school track runner, was edited by Pat Campbell, a retired Fannett-Metal Middle School teacher.

"He has very mature ideas. ... He believes in what he learns in church," Campbell said.

The two connected in a language arts class in which he went beyond the assignments.

"I'm very proud of him," Campbell said. "He did very, very well."

Erik, the son of Dale and Sarah Sollenberger, is considering an English major at Messiah College in Grantham, Pa., and jobs that could supplement a writing career. Right now, the National Honor Society and student council student is signing and selling books to pay back the loan he took from his parents to pay for publishing "Crucifixion" through AuthorHouse.

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