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Willamina Clayton, a student at Hoopeston Area Middle School, recently wrote a fantasy-themed story story during the state-wide school shutdown this semester.

The state-wide shutdown of schools due to the COVID-19 pandemic left many students looking for ways to stay active and keeps their minds occupied while learning from home.

For Willamina Clayton, a student at Hoopeston Area Middle School, the shutdown gave her the chance to write a story she had been thinking about for some time.

Clayton’s story, “The Cursed Prince,” which is printed in full in this week’s edition of The Chronicle, centers on two brothers whose lives are disrupted when a wizard turns one of the brothers into a monster.

Clayton said the story symbolizes how life will throw people obstacles and curves and they have to work past them.

The story focuses on one brother’s efforts to guide his brother through being turned into a monster and free him from this curse.

Clayton was inspired to write the story by a dream she had.

She said it wasn’t a long dream, but it stuck with her and she knew she wanted to explore it further by turning it into a story.

“I could kind of tell that I wanted to work with it and turn it into a story because of how it spoke to me,” she said. “I was like ‘I don’t want to ignore this, I want to do something with this. I think maybe I’ll write a story.’”

Clayton said she’s been working on the story for a few weeks.

There were a few times where she got stuck or struggled with writing the story, but she continued to work at it and completed the story.

Clayton credits her mom, Katie, with helping her write the story and her teacher, Karen Romig, for serving as her editor.

This wasn’t the first time Clayton has dived into the realm of fiction writing.

Clayton said she started writing a short horror-themed story last year, but didn’t get very far.

With “The Cursed Prince,” Clayton said it was the first time she sat down and really dedicated herself to writing a story.

Clayton also discussed what it was like learning from home this semester.

She found the process of learning from to be pretty easy, though internet connection issues did create some problems with conducting Zoom meetings with teachers and connecting with online work. Clayton said they got around these issues by asking the school district to mail paper learning packets to them and she’s just been using those.

Clayton did miss the in-person interaction with her teachers and fellow students.

“I kind of felt frustrated and lonely that I couldn’t go to school and be there with them,” she said.

Even so, Clayton said that being isolated did help her focus on her writing.

“I was less distracted, because I’m very easily distracted,” she said. “I could focus and spend some time to think about every little detail I wanted to get just right.”

Asked what elements of the story she was most proud of, Clayton pointed to the development of the character “Estreail.”

“I’m really proud that I helped my character, ‘Estreail,’ grow more to be this kind, humble, brave young man who is willing to help his brother instead of forgetting about him,” she said.

Clayton hopes to continue writing on a regular basis as she gets older and is coming up with ideas about another fantasy story she would like to write.

“I’m still putting more thought into and I’m trying to come up with the beginning,” she said.

Clayton credits encouragement from one of her teachers with inspiring her to consider writing as a possible career choice.

Clayton said her teacher, Karen Romig, saw that she was growing as a writer a few months ago and encouraged her to explore her writing talents and consider writing as a career choice in the future.

“She really helped me grow towards being a writer,” Clayton said.