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A series endeavor: Oakville teen finishes fifth book

A series endeavor: Oakville teen finishes fifth book

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SOUTH ST. LOUIS COUNTY • “Hannah Hoffmeister” the intercom growled. “Report to the office.”

Hannah wondered what she might have done wrong as she made her way to the office at Queen of All Saints School in Oakville that day four years ago. When she got there, she found her mother, Amanda Hoffmeister, waiting. She waved at Hannah to follow her.

“You have to speak with your editor,” Amanda Hoffmeister said. The eighth-grader’s first book, “Ava,” needed final edits.

The book was the first in a five-book series that Hannah, now 17, wrapped up Friday with the unveiling of the last installment, “Hope.”

Yes. You read that correctly. Hannah has finished an entire five-book series before entering her senior year at Oakville High School. Geared toward kids in grade school, the Dream Ring series follows the adventures of Ava Popolis, a young witch-in-training on the planet Neptune.

Even though the time-consuming process of producing books resulted in missed free time — and a little bit of school time — the Oakville area native has sold thousands of copies over the years and hopes to be discovered nationally.

Hannah started writing when she was 4, ripping out word-filled pieces of notebook paper and stapling her stories together.

She was an “easy reader” at an early age, Amanda Hoffmeister recalled. She never needed to re-learn a reading lesson and devoured books well beyond what other kids her age were reading.

Along with her early reading, Hannah’s writing blossomed from stapled pages to bound books. With the help of her family, Hannah wrote full-sized novels in grade school. Her mother was her first editor. The books were put together at a local Kinko’s.

Soon, kids at school took notice, and her early books were added to the Queen of All Saints library.

Around the age of 12, Hannah finished writing her first big book, which ended up becoming “Ava.” Her mother knew right away that Hannah needed a real editor and a publisher that wasn’t Kinko’s.

She was rejected by several publishing companies. But Hannah signed her first contract when Buttonwood Press, run by her grandfather, Richard L. Baldwin, agreed to take on the five-book series.

At one of her first launch parties following the publication of “Ava,” her friends couldn’t believe the slick cover and numbered pages.

“This is a real book?” Hannah remembered one friend asking.

By the time she turned 14, she had finished writing the five-book series and spent the next several years making final edits. She worked everywhere: at home, in the car and on vacation.

In part to promote her book, Hannah has also given talks to schools over the last several years about overcoming writing obstacles and other challenges.

Spending time writing, editing and speaking resulted in some missed opportunities with friends. But people around her say they’ve always supported her books. Hannah’s neighbor growing up, Emily Carmack, 19, said it was stressful for Hannah to juggle school duties with writing a book and engaging in a social life.

“But she’s handled it well,” Carmack said.

With the editing done on the final book, Hannah is looking forward to senior year in high school. She’s the editor at her school newspaper and is checking out colleges with journalism programs.

And her future as an author? She’s not sure yet. But Hannah plans to continue writing.

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Jack Witthaus is a reporter at the Post-Dispatch

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