Finding the words

BVH senior creates manuscript of her poems

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Thoughts of the past, present and future travel from her mind onto the blank canvas of the page. As more words reach the page, lines are created, collectively producing stanzas conveying both personal messages and  observations she’s made. This is an ongoing process for Bonita Vista High (BVH) senior Desiree Leeper, an aspiring poet currently working on a manuscript she plans to publish on iUniverse, an online publishing site. 

Leeper came upon the opportunity after International Baccalaureate (IB) English teacher, Eric Helle, assigned his class two essay contests. Researching various contests on the internet, she found a self-publishing site, iUniverse, which gave her the platform to publish her own works publicly. 

“I’ve always wanted to [publish] because I have 100 to 200 pages of poems,” Leeper said, “I’d rather [self-publish] because publishing with big companies [may] result in you not owning your own material.” 

The manuscript, which is currently under Leeper’s own editing process, contains an estimated 90 poems, varying from her own personal thoughts and emotions, to different people in Leeper’s environment. 

“I think right now, I want to finalize [the manuscript] on my own terms, and then when I would send it over to the publishing company [for their edits]. [iUniverse] have their own editors as well, so they would look at it, and that’s when I would discuss options,” Leeper said.  

As a poet, Leeper’s main goal to publish her own work, originated since she officially began writing poetry in middle school. Leeper originally gained true passion for poetry from female poets, as well as Allen Ginsberg’s Howl, a collection of poems published in the mid 20th century. However, Leeper stated she became familiar with poetry and literature from her mother, Melissa Carillo, who is a poet herself. 

“I would talk to [Leeper] about how much I loved to read and write growing up,” Carillo said “As she got older I shared with her that I wrote poetry and told her I had published a [poem] dedicated to her father and she got really interested. I explained to her that poetry was a way to get feelings out and turn them into something beautiful.” 

According to Carillo, Leeper became fond of writing literature from the age of three, where she commenced creating picture books, slowly gravitating towards stories and poetry as she got older. 

I feel [writing] has been a great avenue for [Leeper] to express herself, and to pull out feelings that she couldn’t share with anyone. It’s really exciting to see where Desiree’s writing will take her,” Carillo said. 

Throughout high school, Leeper has continued to demonstrate her passion for literature, enrolling in IB English Higher Level (HL), and pursuing the IB diploma. As part of the requirements for the diploma, Leeper wrote a 4000 word essay on a specific subject. Under the guidance of IB English and Theory of Knowledge teacher, Jason Good, she chose to write a literature piece, fully depicting her passion for writing. 

“Focusing on literary components of the text and making her claims was a big improvement for her, but also organizing the essay itself. Desiree does a good job of adding variety to her words, and I think that is pretty impressive,” Good said. 

Oftentimes, Leeper rereads poems she has written as a part of the manuscript’s editing process, highlighting certain parts of her life that were important. While Leeper is yet to publish her manuscript, she is focused on pursuing a career in writing, and continuing to expand her skills in poetry. 

“I’ll read back on some of the [poems I’ve written] because it’s been like years of me writing these poems, and it gets emotional sometimes, because then I reflect on how I was feeling at that time,” Leeper said. “I love writing poetry, and I really want to go to school for creative writing. Hopefully, publishing will bring future opportunities [for me].”