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Southeast Student Writes Novella through Text-Messaging
Sara Schmidt, a general studies major at Southeast Missouri State University, has rare opportunities to demonstrate her talent for writing young adult fiction.
Since 2003, Schmidt has been writing for YouthNoise, a Web site whose mission is to inspire and empower young people everywhere to catapult their passion and idealism into bettering the planet. Schmidt said her boss asked her to write a text novella as a part of RE*Generation, a movement designed by YouthNoise and Virgin Mobile USA to call attention to teen and young adult issues.
“Ghost Town” is RE*Generation’s first major project. The episodes, written in text message slang and delivered to users twice a day, focus on the issue of teenage homelessness.
“At first I was really excited, but then I panicked. After interviewing homeless kids and Rick Koca, the founder of StandUp for Kids, I was sure I wouldn’t be able to do these kids justice and my writing wouldn’t be authentic enough,” said Schmidt.
“Ghost Town” is about a homeless high school football player named Ghost. The novella focuses on his adventures with his friends. Each of the eight characters in the novella has a back story written by Schmidt about them on the YouthNoise Web site, as well as individual profiles on MySpace.
Schmidt said writing the novella has been a rewarding experience, but the most defining role in her life right now is being a mother to her one-year-old daughter, Sagean (Sage). When Schmidt was six months pregnant, she traveled to San Francisco to meet the team at YouthNoise when she began having chest pains. She said she went to the emergency room at University of California-San Francisco, where the doctors discovered Schmidt had preeclampsia, a disorder that occurs only during pregnancy and the postpartum period, and affects both the mother and the unborn baby. They were able to postpone the birth for another five days. Sage was born Oct. 20, 2005, weighing only 1.1 pounds.
Schmidt said Sage is now doing incredibly well and her development is on-target.
“The doctors saved both our lives, and I never knew true gratitude, or even true humility, until then,” she said.
Schmidt said she loves to sing in Choral Union, Southeast’s largest choir. She also enjoys attending plays at the Rose Theatre and participating in the debate team.
“The best classes I took at Southeast were debate with Dr. Underberg and creative writing with Dr. Swartwout. These are probably the most helpful for what I do today,” said Schmidt. She explained how participating in the National Educational Debate Association, NEDA, led her to YouthNoise.
“Being on the debate team was the best experience I had at Southeast. I was already fairly politically active, but after all the competition and research that I did on the team, I learned so much more and got more involved in national causes. It led me to find my current job as editor at YouthNoise,” said Schmidt.
She said the biggest highlight during her time at Southeast was her student teaching internship with the Children at Risk in Education (CARE) Program in Leon, Spain.
“This was my biggest challenge because it involved living away from my family and friends for an entire semester, as well as communicating in a language that I only spoke intermittently!” said Schmidt.
Schmidt said she considers herself a “very big liberal” and an activist. In the past, she has interned with NARAL Pro-Choice America and Jobs with Justice. She said she has also volunteered with Planned Parenthood, MoveOn and the Kerry campaign, and participated in many protests.
Schmidt said she loves to spend time with Sage and T.J., Sage’s father and Schmidt’s partner of 11 years. She said she also loves to read, write poetry and fan fiction, listen to music, create art, ride roller coasters and watch Law & Order on television.
“I would advise people to take advantage of professors’ office hours, get to know the library well and jump in and try everything out.”