During their second-grade year at Traders Point Christian Academy, friends Sarah Pfleeger and Lillie Duncan partnered under the pseudonyms Annie Meade and Bailey Richards to bring two young detectives to life in their now-published book, “The Mystery of the Stolen Pearl Necklace.”
The book was published by AuthorHouse in 2017 when Pfleeger, now 16, and Duncan, now 15, were in fourth grade. The synopsis of the book is as follows: “Two fourth-grade girl detectives (are) stuck in a trap door trying to find a widow’s pearl necklace. Will they be stuck there forever, or will they escape in time?”
After six years with little contact, the now-sophomores in high school have reconnected and are continuing their childrens’ chapter-book series. Pfleeger said they aren’t starting completely from scratch, as they found a half-finished manuscript of a second book they began writing in fourth grade.
Duncan said they are attempting to keep the next book, “Mystery of the Stolen Future,” consistent with the writing style and reading level of the first, though they have found it challenging to get back into the mindset of their younger selves.
Duncan and Pfleeger agreed the most effective way they’ve found to tap into that mindset was by rereading their previous book and building off the partial manuscript from the second book, which they said is now complete and in the editing process.
One of the biggest challenges for the co-authors in their elementary years was getting used to the editing process, Duncan said. Pfleeger recalled how hard it was to accept changes the editor would make after having concluded the laborious task of using their third-grade typing skills to “peck out” portions of the manuscript during indoor recess.
Pfleeger, however, said they came to realize editing was crucial to the process of creating a polished piece, and they are now extremely grateful for it.
Pfleeger said in her younger years, she found the phrase, ‘You can do anything you put your mind to’ to be rather cliche. Although following the publication of their book, she said she realized that while she may not be able to do absolutely anything, there are still amazing things that can come along if they work hard enough.
Nevertheless, the co-authors agreed it can be challenging being young authors in an industry largely dominated by older individuals. Pfleeger noted the more obvious obstacles, such as not yet being able to drive, and finding time to write while juggling school and extracurricular activities.
The two agreed, however, the bigger challenge was getting people to take them seriously, particularly having started out so young.
“People get the misconception that our parents did everything for us, but it really wasn’t that way,” Duncan said. “We did this ourselves. Our parents are our biggest supporters, but this was us.”
Duncan and Pfleeger’s former second-grade teacher, Tenille Marowelli, said that she enjoyed seeing the passion the two had for creative writing at such a young age, and would let them work on their book following lessons on creative writing practices.
“They really took initiative. They were the ones that decided they wanted to find out what the process was (of publishing a book) and contacted people in the area that could help them,” Marowelli said.
The former teacher said that she teared up watching Pfleeger and Duncan in a recent TV interview about their book because it was special to see former students accomplish something they felt so passionately about.
“These girls were just very natural, abstract creative writers,” Marowelli said. “They were the first students to show me that age was really no factor in creative writing.”
While there may have been a steep learning curve in their journey to becoming authors, Pfleeger said she appreciates that their work has inspired other young people to pursue their passions, regardless of age.
“We weren’t prodigies. I always say, we just wrote a book and then made it happen,” Duncan said. “So many people have reached out and asked about the process because they want to do the same, which is really great to see.”
What: Book signing with Sarah and Lillie
Where: Black Dog Books in Zionsville
When: Oct. 22 at 1 p.m.