A science whiz, a professional ballet dancer, a born storyteller, a basketball star, and four others talk about their lives and their hopes for the future
by Graham Meyer
Writing a novel requires intense discipline and self-assurance. That eliminates most teenagers from the trade. Not Shelby Brody, a junior at the Latin School of Chicago, who completed the fifth draft of her first novel, Jennifer Sharp, this past spring. “After this next draft, I want to send it out and try and do things with it,” says Brody. “I think it’ll be ready.”
“I’ve known kids who want to get a story published; Shelby wants to do this for a living,” says Billy Lombardo, a creative-writing instructor at Latin and the artistic director of Polyphony H.S., the international high-school literary magazine on which Brody will share editor-in-chief duties this year. “I haven’t known anyone who’s as interested in the craft.”
Jennifer Sharp was born late one night after Brody stayed up to read The Princess Diaries. Brody’s book examines the problematic relationships among the title character and three others, and Brody knew when she embarked on the project that the idea was novel-sized. “I’d always wanted to write a novel, but I never had characters strong enough to hold through that whole process,” she says.
A sampling of the joys of the writer’s life has hooked her, and her early readers have put her in the great literary conversation. “The fact that they’ve talked about it, even though it’s not a real book yet, is really cool to me,” she says. “The fact that I found a way to do what other authors have done, which is give them something to talk about, [is] really an amazing thing.”
Photograph by Ryan Robinson