MUHS student publishes a novel for young readers

MIDDLEBURY — Sixteen-year-old Joseph Findlay has always loved writing.
The Middlebury resident developed an affinity for the craft as a second-grader. He’d write stories for the fun of it, building a plot around his characters only to leave them hanging in mid-adventure after having suddenly moved on to another project.
Children can have short attention spans.
But at the tender age of 14, Findlay decided it was finally time to give one of his literary dramas a denouement.
And now his first completed story has become his first book: “Camp Cornet,” a 79-page tale involving a young lad on a mission to a mysterious island to foil an evil character who will stop at nothing — including enslaving children — in his quest for immortality.
“I had no idea where it was going to go,” Findlay confessed about “Camp Cornet,” which he wrote as a 2016 Christmas present to his parents while an 8th-grader at Middlebury Union Middle School.
He drew inspiration from two if his favorite authors — Neil Gaiman, much acclaimed for his short fiction, novels and children’s fantasy books; and Lemony Snicket (aka Daniel Handler), author of several children’s books, including “A Series of Unfortunate Events” and “All the Wrong Questions.”
“I like reading all kinds of stuff, usually dystopian fiction,” Findlay said.
Dystopian fiction is a type of writing that often features a futuristic or imagined universe in which people are subjugated — through propaganda or by technological means — by a totalitarian or evil political system.
Given his preferences in literature, it’s no accident that Findlay sought to emulate some of the otherworldly mystique and “good versus evil” theme conveyed by his favorite writers.
“Camp Cornet’s” main protagonist is “Marcol,” a 13-year-old boy who’s led to believe he’ll be attending a fun camp, but is instead diverted to a pirate ship and then a submarine en route to a secret mission at a sinister island camp run by a nasty group called the “Mal Immortals,” who are led by a villain called “Snatch.”
“He likes to ‘snatch’ kids away from their parents,” Findlay explained.
Snatch and his lackeys funnel the aroma of a special herb through the ventilation system of his lair to induce dozens of children to do his bidding. They’ve been brainwashed to search for a series of items — including a teapot — that, when used together, would grant him immortality.
Marcol’s assignment: Thwart Snatch’s plan and free the children from his clutches.
Findlay pulled out all the stops to produce a top-notch story that he originally thought would simply become a cherished holiday keepsake for his folks. He prevailed upon his cousin-in-law, Rob Blum, to draw great illustrations for the story, including scary renditions of the pirate ship, the island, Snatch and parts of the heavily guarded compound in which the children are imprisoned.
Blum is a professional illustrator who’s also owner/operator of the Knead Bakery and Café in Burlington.
“He saw it as a creative project to do with me, as well as an opportunity to express himself,” Findlay said of Blum’s contributions.
His parents loved the book — so much that they encouraged him to get it published. Blum recommended that Findlay reached out to Young Street Publishing, known for helping young authors get their work into print. Before long, Findlay had connected with a Young Street editor, and “Camp Cornet” — after some helpful revisions — was released to the masses last month.
It’s available locally at the Vermont Book Shop in Middlebury, Recycled Reading in Bristol, and through Amazon.
The book is aimed at third-graders and older, according to Findlay.
While Camp Cornet’s ending leaves room for a sequel, Findlay isn’t yet sure if he’ll bring Marcol back for another mission.
Findlay is intrigued by the prospect of a career in writing, particularly in the realm of screenwriting for television and film. But he has other varied interests, including graphic design, architecture and psychology.
He’s now a junior at Middlebury Union High School, where his course load includes a creative writing class. He’s an avid soccer player and Nordic skier.
Findlay said he’s learned a lot from the process of writing a book and getting it published, and he just hopes readers enjoy the story.
“I’m happy with the final product,” he said.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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