News - Sauk Valley

Author Terry Brooks shares writing tips, memories with Rock Falls students

Rock Falls teacher Kelly Schaefer leads students in a quest worthy of Nest Freemark

Rock Falls literature instructor Kelly Schaefer and students Raul Garcia-Fernandez, Savanna Wood-Kendrick, Ariana Diaz, and Makenna Arickz meet with author Terry Brooks during a book signing in Naperville on Oct. 11.

Author Terry Brooks often makes young people the heroes of his fanciful tales, so it must have been a pleasant surprise when a group of high school students from his old stomping grounds appeared during an October book signing.

Author Terry Brooks appears during a Zoom call in a Nov. 10 discussion with students in a literature genre studies class at Rock Falls High School.

Brooks was pleased enough, in fact, that he then agreed to conduct a Zoom session with those students and their classmates a month later.

All in all, it turned into a rewarding experience for everyone in Kelly Schaefer’s literature genre studies class at Rock Falls High School, who had just finished reading, analyzing and critiquing Brooks’ 1997 novel “Running With the Demon.”

Indeed, it’s been 25 years since Brooks first wrote about the fictional Hopewell, a stand-in for his hometown of Sterling.

In “Demon,” teenager Nest Freemark’s inquisitive nature takes her deep into the woods of Sinnissippi Park – where alongside an itinerant Knight of the Word – she confronts the evil residing within an old oak. She learns both the truth of her birth and her destiny.

Savanna Wood-Kendrick, Raul Garcia-Fernandez, Ariana Diaz, and Makenna Arickz hold up signed copies of "Daughter of Darkness," the latest novel by Terry Brooks, a Sterling native.

The senior members of Schaefer’s class – Raul Garcia-Fernandez, Savanna Wood-Kendrick, Ariana Diaz and Makenna Arickz – attended Brooks’ book-signing Oct. 11 at Anderson’s Bookstore in Naperville.

This was Brooks’ first book tour in years. As the 78-year-old writer explained in his website’s blog, personal health concerns and a desire to complete his latest novel, “Daughter of Darkness” had kept him at his home in the Pacific Northwest.

He blogged about his trip, writing, in part, how good it was to meet his loyal readers: “It was so good to meet and talk with them once again. It made me feel like the three years really didn’t matter all that much, that the love that I have been fortunate enough to receive from those who really do care about my work has not diminished. There were stories to share everywhere we went.”

As it turned out, some of those stories were shared with Schaefer’s class. Brooks agreed to conduct a video session with the students on Nov. 10.

“He spoke to them about his writing career and what his life was like growing up in the Sauk Valley area,” Schaefer said. “Students enjoyed talking to him and having the opportunity to directly ask questions and make comments about ‘Running with the Demon.’ ”

It also seems the students made a good impression. Schaefer indicated Brooks expressed a desire to have video sessions with future classes.

It's a full house as members of the Rock Falls literature genre studies class have a discussion with fantasy author Terry Brooks on Nov. 10 after teacher Kelly Schaefer arranged the session by attending a book signing in October.

About ‘Running With the Demon’

A novel of dark fantasy set in modern-day, it tells of 14-year-old Nest Freemark, who seems to have inherited magical powers from her grandmother. She is aided by a tree-like creature named Pick, a wolflike creature called Wraith, a barn owl named Daniel and a weary traveler named John Ross. It is the first story of the Word and Void trilogy, which serves as a prequel to the epic fantasy Shannara series.

Subsequent books are “A Knight of the Word,” in which Nest, now a college student and athlete, encourages Ross during his crisis of faith, and “Angel Fire East,” when Nest, her career as an Olympic runner behind her, has a final showdown with the demons that have long terrorized her family and Hopewell.

Troy Taylor

Troy E. Taylor

Was named editor for and the Gazette and Telegraph in 2021. An Illinois native, he has been a reporter or editor in daily newspapers since 1989.