Deanna Frances is a typical teenager. She enjoys spending time with friends, going to class and writing for the school newspaper.
But what sets her apart from the average 19-year-old is that she also is a published author.
“Growing up, I was always a huge dreamer,” Frances said. “I had huge goals.”
At 14, Frances, a native of Waterman, wrote the manuscript for her book, “Taking Chances,” which was published and released by New Leaf Books this year.
Homework, social events and extracurricular activities would keep any high-schooler busy, but Frances said somehow she was able to work in the time to write while attending Indian Creek High School in Shabbona.
“I had to budget my time very wisely,” she said. “I didn’t have a whole lot of time to hang out with my friends.”
The book is a realistic fiction that Frances said is a twist on a classic tale.
The main character, Sydney Baker, is a teenager who moves from Chicago to Shabbona and has the typical high school experience.
But she also is harboring the dark secret of abuse by her stepfather.
“Personally, in my life, I’ve never experienced anything like that before,” Frances said. “But I wanted to put more depth into what I was writing.”
The idea for the book’s plot was not based on any particular events Frances or anyone she knew had experienced. But as she was editing her manuscript and passing it along for friends to read, she found many people could relate to the story.
“People [would come up to me] and say, ‘I love that you’re trying to advocate for this cause,’ ” she said.
Writing a book about a serious issue like child abuse was not something Frances took lightly.
While in high school, she says she spent most of her free time in the library studying the subject and absorbing as much information as she could.
Frances also got a little help from her mentor, author J.D. Gordon from Chicago. The two connected through an adopt-an-author program through the Teen Writers and Artists Project when Frances was 14 years old.
Gordon said the process of helping Frances refine her book required lots of communicating through e-mail and phone conversations over the years.
But Gordon doesn’t take much credit for helping Frances tackle the tough topic of child abuse in her book.
“She had a good heart and she was able to connect with kids who did have that type of story in their life,” he said.
Seeing Frances’ hard work come to fruition in the form of a published book is a thrilling experience, he said.
“I’m so excited to know her book is actually out there,” he said. “It’s fantastic. It’s a wonderful experience.”
Frances said she wouldn’t be a published author without the adopt-an-author program and everyone who supported her along the way, even when her goals may have seemed too ambitious.
“It means a lot just knowing that I had so many people encouraging me,” she said.
Frances is now a freshman at Northern Illinois University where she studies vocal performance, music education and journalism. She says she hopes to become a music teacher one day while continuing to write.
Frances said she hopes her book touches many people, especially teenage girls who may experience a great deal of stress or pressure in their lives.
The message she wants to convey in “Taking Chances,” is one of encouragement and hope.
“There’s a light at the end of the tunnel,” she said. “Even if it’s not something as big as child abuse.”