COLUMBUS GROVE — When you teach kindergarten for 30 years, there’s very little a child can say that will surprise you — no matter what their age.
That’s why when Ellie Keehn told her grandmother she was going to write a book, Anne Verhoff just smiled and said, “I hope you do.”
Today it’s a conversation that Verhoff will forever treasure. Ellie was just 13 years old at the time, and now …. well, she’s 15 years old, still waiting to get her driver’s license, but able to claim something few other teens can: She’s an author, having her first book — “The Waves Keep Crashing” — published just 10 days ago.
The 213-page novel came about through a love for reading and writing, an idea that “popped into her head,” some coaching, and most of all, a lot of determination.
You could call the book a teen drama. It’s about a girl whose life revolves around her talent for swimming. When an accident takes that away, she has to learn how to redefine herself. That is complicated by young love, strained friendships and mental-health issues.
Ellie said the idea came to her while on vacation at Captiva Island, Florida, with her parents, Beth and Mike Keehn, and sister and brother, Audrey and Clark.
“I just started writing my ideas down, building the story,” Ellie said. “There were times when I would write a lot, and other times when I would get writer’s block. I wouldn’t just sit there and stare at the computer, though. I would do other things, and when I wasn’t even thinking about the book, ideas would just come to me.”
By the time her eighth-grade year ended, she finished her first draft. Then she found herself dealing with an old-saying — “Every good writer needs a good editor.” That’s when she was introduced to Beth Huffman, a retired English teacher who is an author of several books herself.
The two clicked.
“Every Sunday night we would talk on the phone and go through the book. We would talk about the characters, who they were and why things happened. I would work on the suggestions and we would go over it the next time we talked,” Ellie said.
Huffman was amazed with Ellie’s tenacity.
“Not only does she have a natural gift for storytelling, but Ellie is driven to excel,” Huffman said. “The more I would challenge her to dig deeper into a character, the harder she worked. When the quarantine hit, our conversations went from once a week to three or four times a week. She truly has a love for reading and writing.”
Ellie credits that to her grandmother.
“Ever since I was little, my grandmother always had this big box of books. She would tell us to take one out, and then she would read it to us. I so looked forward to that,” Ellie said.
Grandma’s intention was to encourage her grandchildren to read and write.
And today, Anne Verhoff is proud to say she has an “author” in the family.
ROSES AND THORNS: The rose garden makes room for two people who kept us safe for 40 years.
Rose: To Auglaize County Sheriff Al Solomon, who was honored at the Ohio D.A.R.E. Officer Training graduation event with a Lifetime Achievement Award. Solomon has been with the Auglaize County Sheriff’s Office for 41 years, including the past 16 as sheriff. The D.A.R.E. program in Auglaize County was established in January 1991 and is now in every public school in Auglaize County.
Rose: To former Van Wert Fire Chief Jim Steele, who retired in 2017 after 40 years of service. He was the recipient of the Ohio Fire Educator Lifetime Achievement Award in 2020.
Rose: To Brady Yingst, a junior at Perry High School. He has won the Allen County Cross Country meet all three years he has competed in it, winning the 5,000-meter (3.1 miles) course this year with a time of 16 minutes, 47.6 seconds.
Rose: To Bath graduate Bo Gross. He recently had three carries for 10 yards in helping Air Force beat Navy, 40-7. Bo is a junior at the Air Force Academy.
Thorn: Residents of 411 Nye St. in Lima told police Dalton Roessler was not at their house. Officers, however, noticed a freshly lit cigar in the bedroom and found Roessler hiding in the attic. Police believe Roessler was the driver of a vehicle who fled after wrecking the car and killing a Lima teenage girl.
Thorn: The coronavirus takes its toll in Delphos and Lima. Eighteen people who visited the Delphos Eagles Lodge since Sept. 22 have tested positive for COVID-19, with eight of those individuals being hospitalized. In Lima, 16 students at Lima Central Catholic High School have been put in quarantine after the school learned of its third positive Thursday.
Thorn: Opiate overdoses in Allen County are on the rise. The first six months of 2020 saw more opioid-related overdoses than a similar time frame in both 2019 and 2018.
PARTING SHOT: Of all the things people learned in grade school, trying to avoid cooties was the last one expected to be used.
Ellie Keehn, a sophomore at Columbus Grove High Schools, holds the book, “The Waves Keep Crashing,” which she started writing in the seventh grade. The book was published earlier this month and can be purchased through Amazon or Barnes & Noble. As far as a second book, Ellie says, “Right now I think I’ll just enjoy this.”
Jim Krumel is the editor of The Lima News. Contact him at 567-242-0391 or at The Lima News, 3515 Elida Road, Lima, Ohio 45807.