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 Monfort Elementary School student Katie Khaznehkatbi and recent Utica Community Schools graduate Lauren Vermeulen hold the book that they made together.

Monfort Elementary School student Katie Khaznehkatbi and recent Utica Community Schools graduate Lauren Vermeulen hold the book that they made together.

Photo provided by Timothy McAvoy


Students share their experience publishing first children’s book

By: Kara Szymanski | Shelby - Utica News | Published December 16, 2019

 Khaznehkatbi and Vermeulen read and discuss their book “The Unicorn with No Horn” to students in grades K-6 at Monfort Elementary School Dec. 6.

Khaznehkatbi and Vermeulen read and discuss their book “The Unicorn with No Horn” to students in grades K-6 at Monfort Elementary School Dec. 6.

Photo provided by Timothy McAvoy

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SHELBY TOWNSHIP — Two local students published their first children’s book in September and recently spoke with Utica Community Schools students about their publishing journey.

Monfort Elementary School student Katie Khaznehkatbi and recent Utica Community Schools graduate Lauren Vermeulen published their first book, “The Unicorn with No Horn,” after two years of teamwork to put it together.

Khaznehkatbi and Vermeulen began working on the book when Khaznehkatbi was in first grade at Monfort and Vermeulen was attending Eisenhower High School.

The book was written by Khaznehkatbi, and it was illustrated by Vermeulen. The book came about as an entry in a contest.

“It started from my high school teacher, Mrs. (Josephine) Braun; she told me that the first graders were writing short stories, and she told me I should read some and choose one to draw. I picked the most interesting one to me. It stood out to me more than the other ones,” Vermeulen said.

She said that she took Braun’s multimedia class and knew that working on the book was something she would like to do.

Khaznehkatbi’s kindergarten teacher had told Khaznehkatbi about the contest when she was in first grade, and Khaznehkatbi decided to give the contest a try.

“I wrote a book to see if I could win, and in first grade, on the day of my first grade Christmas party, my teacher read an email that I had won,” she said.

Khaznehkatbi’s mom emailed the text of the story to Vermeulen, and she divided the sentences onto different pages and used the words to figure out what the illustrations should be. Khaznehkatbi and Vermeulen went over the final details together at the library this past summer.

Khaznehkatbi said that putting the book together was not difficult.

“The person who edited it came to our school. She came and mentioned what we needed to fix,” Khaznehkatbi said.

The book is about a unicorn named Rose who is sad because she is different than the other unicorns — she has no horn. When a brave friend stands up for her, Rose’s perception is quickly turned around. The book is about embracing and accepting everyone for who they are.

“It’s a problem that has been going on for the past long time, and especially nowadays it still happens in schools and no one is doing anything to fix that. … The issue at hand is judging others for being different,” said Vermeulen.

“Katie said that she had also observed it happening around here, but that it never happened to her. She observed it happen to other people, and she wanted to do something about that,” Vermeulen said.

She said that Khaznehkatbi chose the color scheme and that working together was pretty easy, even with the age difference.

“It actually wasn’t difficult at all. The only difficult part was in the media. There are so many horses and unicorns that it was hard to find designs that were different,” said Vermeulen.

She said she enjoyed the project and working with Khaznehkatbi.

“It was a very nice project because not everyone our ages gets to say they have a published book. I think it’s especially good for Katie, because she wrote it in first grade. It was fun working with her because she is really smart — insanely smart for her age,” she said. “She was very mature and understood everything.”

Khaznehkatbi’s mom assisted the two when they needed help.

Vermeulen said she is interested in writing all types of books and majoring in art illustration. She now attends the College for Creative Studies.

Vermeulen and Khaznehkatbi talked to Monfort students about the book Dec. 6. The students had many questions for the two.

“It was very interesting, and it was especially interesting to hear how the different grades process the information. Second through fourth graders were most interested, and then I found that fifth and sixth graders were more interested in the art aspect of it. I think they are more in art classes. Kids compared their own unicorns. We read the book and then talked about it. We asked questions about the revision process,” said Vermeulen.

Khaznehkatbi said that sharing her story with each grade was fun, and that she had already made presentations to other schools and had been interviewed by news media.

“I thought it (presenting) was so fun. It will have been my third time, because I did it at other schools, at the library and had interviews. It was my first time to share with Lauren, because the other assembly I didn’t have Lauren there with me,” she said.

Vermeulen said she wants people to learn not to judge others for something they can’t control.

Khaznehkatbi said she is very happy with the outcome of their work.

“I’m really happy with the result and so glad that people are able to buy my book and read it. It is very cool, especially since a lot of people my age haven’t written books,” she said.

Khaznehkatbi said her favorite part was when the book was complete.

“The final result was the best part. We sold almost 200 books already,” she said.

“Never give up, and publishing a book takes lots and lots of patience,” she said.

She also said she might write more books in the future.

The book has been professionally published and is available at amazon.com.

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