In a story called “Rising,” Moniline Winston shares what she never thought she could. She’s 18 now, a half-dozen years past a hellish experience of sexual abuse.
Her telling of what happened when she was a girl in Ephrata is included in “Listen: Young Writers Reflect on Chaos, Clarity, Action, Balance.” It’s the seventh book written by Scriber Lake High School students under the guidance of English teacher Marjie Bowker.
“This one goes way further than in the past,” Bowker said. “We have to be truthful.”
Truth, with its healing power, is a theme running through the teens’ personal narratives. Their stories delve into tough topics including anxiety, bullying, self-harm and suicide attempts.
Winston wrote, in the introduction to her story, of her initial reluctance to include “details of my trauma.”
“As I continued to type and edit my story to make it more true, more heartfelt, I realized I couldn’t let my pain go if I didn’t face it completely,” she wrote.
Following each story is a reflection by its young author. The mothers of two students — Winston’s mom and the mother of 16-year-old Joey Walker — have included afterword notes.
Walker’s story, “Failure, Failure, Failure, Freedom,” describes his deep depression that led to suicide attempts. The “Freedom” section expresses what several teens’ stories do, the relief and happiness they found when they came to Scriber.
The Edmonds district’s alternative high school, Scriber Lake is described on its website: “Ours is a school of choice; some students come to Scriber as freshmen, some come seeking a second chance, and some land here for a last chance.”
For Mindy Filla, 18, Scriber was a second chance. “I dropped out my sophomore year,” said Filla, whose story “Plankton” centers on the anxiety she felt walking the crowded halls at her former school, Edmonds-Woodway High. She wrote of trying not to make eye contact and of hiding out in a restroom stall. The story includes flashbacks of being bullied in third grade.
In a Scriber classroom Wednesday, Filla explained how she and Bowker worked on the plankton idea, the notion of a tiny organism in a massive place. “The hall’s like a river,” Filla said.
Bowker, a 1985 graduate of Lynnwood High School, founded the Scriber Lake writing program and its annual Steep Stairs Press book project. The Edmonds district has been supportive. Bowker spends 30 percent of her time on the writing program.
This year’s book is dedicated to Liza Behrendt, a Scriber teacher who helped with previous editions. Behrendt died of cancer in 2018.
Along with Bowker, Scriber teacher-librarian Leighanne Law was instrumental in editing and compiling the book.
“I usually teach a narrative writing unit, fiction or nonfiction,” Bowker said. “Eighty percent of them choose to write nonfiction about their lives.”
Once the book is published, there’s more to do.
There are public appearances and readings, which take some teens out of their comfort zones. Walker, who attended a Feb. 16 reading at Edmonds Lutheran Church, described it as “absolutely terrifying.” Still, he took part with his fellow authors and student musicians.
The young writers also will present their work to an Edmonds Community College psychology class, a Lynnwood Rotary meeting, at Alderwood Middle School, to the Edmonds School District and to Friends of the Edmonds Library.
Winston, in her story’s afterword, wrote that her abuser is now behind bars after “he managed to hurt another girl.” Her report to police “solidified the case against him.”
On Wednesday, Winston said the best thing about putting her pain on paper has been finding a sense of liberty.
“Writing it starts toward the journey to let that thing go. It can help people,” she said.
The stories have inspired other art forms. Scriber student Bailey Frisbie, 17, wrote a song with the book in mind. It’s called “Kismet.” And 17-year-old Reese Olds-Craig has written and performed a rap based on Filla’s “Plankton” story.
After years of encouraging students to write their truth, Bowker sees the effort coming full circle. “One of the girls who wrote for our first book is now doing student teaching,” she said.
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Listen: Young Writers Reflect on Chaos, Clarity, Action, Balance,” the seventh book by Scriber Lake High School students, is available at the school, 23200 100th Ave. W., Edmonds, and on Amazon. It will also be available at a book-release event at 6 p.m. March 12 at Cafe Louvre, 210 Fifth Ave. S., Edmonds. Other events are planned at local schools and meetings. Books are $15.95 on Amazon, $10 at events. Information: www.facebook.com/steepstairspress