The Weekly Newspaper serving the citizens of Morenci, Mich., Fayette, Ohio, and surrounding areas.

  • Snow.2
    FIRST SNOW—Heavy, wet flakes piled deep on tree branches—and windshields—as the area received its first significant snowfall of the season. “Usually it begins with a dusting or two,” said George Isobar, Morenci’s observer for the National Weather Service, “but this time it came with a vengeance.” By the end of the day Saturday, a little over four inches of snow was on the ground. Now comes the thaw with temperatures in the 40s and 50s for three days.
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    SKEWERS, gumdrops, and marshmallows are all that’s needed to create interesting shapes and designs for Layla McDowell Saturday at Stair District Library’s “Sculptamania!” Open House. The program featuring design games and materials is one part of a larger project funded by a $7,500 Curiosity Creates grant from Disney and the American Library Association. Additional photos are on page 7.
    Morenci marching band members took to the field Friday night dressed for Halloween during the Bulldog’s first playoff game. Morenci fans had a bit of a scare until the fourth quarter when the Bulldogs scored 30 points to leave Lenawee Christian School behind. Whiteford visits Morenci this Friday for the district championship game. From the left is Clayton Borton, Morgan Merillat and James O’Brien.
    DNA PUZZLE—Mitchell Storrs and Wyatt Mohr tackle a puzzle representing the structure of DNA. There’s only one correct way for all the pieces to fit. It’s one of the new materials that can be used in both biology and chemistry classes, said teacher Loretta Cox.
  • Front.tar.wide
    A TRAFFIC control worker stands in the middle of Morenci’s Main Street Tuesday morning, waiting for the next flow of vehicles to be let through from the west. The dusty gravel surface was sealed with a layer of tar, leaving only the application of paint for new striping. The project was completed in conjunction with county road commission work west of Morenci.
  • Front.pull
    JUNIORS Jazmin Smith and Trevor Corkle struggle against a team from the sophomore class Friday during the annual tug of war at the Homecoming Games pep rally. Even the seniors struggled against the sophomores who won the competition. At the main course of the day, the Bulldog football team struggled against Whiteford in a homecoming loss.
    YOUNG soccer players surived a chilly morning Saturday in Morenci’s PTO league. From the left is Emma Cordts, Wayne Corser, Carter and Levi Seitz, Briella York and Drew Joughin. Two more weeks of soccer remain for this season.
  • Front.ropes
    BOWEN BAUMGARTNER of Morenci makes his way across a rope bridge constructed by the Tecumseh Boy Scout troop Sunday at Lake Hudson Recreation Area. The bridge was one of many challenges, displays and games set up for the annual Youth Jamboree by the Michigan DNR. Additional photos on are the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.homecoming Court
    One of four senior candidates will be crowned the fall homecoming queen during half-time of this week’s Morenci-Whiteford football game. In the back row (left to right) is exchange student Kinga Vidor (her escort will be Caylob Alcock), seniors Alli VanBrandt (escorted by Sam Cool), Larissa Elliott (escorted by Clayton Borton), Samantha Wright (escorted by JJ Elarton) and Justis McCowan (escorted by Austin Gilson), and exchange student Rebecca Rosenberger (escorted by Garrett Smith). Front row freshman court member Allie Kaiser (escorted by Anthony Thomas), sophomore Marlee Blaker (escorted by Nate Elarton) and junior Cheyenne Stone (escorted by Dominick Sell).
  • Front.park.lights
    GETTING READY—Jerad Gleckler pounds nails to secure a string of holiday lights on the side of the Wakefield Park concession stand while other members of the Volunteer Club and others hold them in place. The volunteers showed up Sunday afternoon to string lights at the park. The decorating project will continue this Sunday. Denise Walsh is in charge of the effort this year.
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Freshmen connect with NYC author 2012.12.19

Written by David Green.


Why did you have Jake leave and not come back?

Why did you decide to have Astrid get pregnant?

How did you decide which people would become couples?

author visit.1Why did you set the book in the future?

"Man, you guys are nailing me with hard questions," said author Emmy Laybourne last week in the Morenci Middle School library.

Laybourne wasn't actually in the room with Mrs. Kruger's freshman English students. She was in her house near New York City, talking into her iPad. The students watched her image projected on a large screen, while taking turns sitting in the "interviewer's chair" in front of a school iPad. The application Facetime closed the 600-mile gap between the two locations.

Mrs. Kruger developed a curriculum around Laybourne's first novel, "Monument 14," and the author agreed to chat with the two freshman classes.

She was impressed with the lessons Mrs. Kruger created for the book and she told the students they should appreciate their instructor.

"I've met a lot of English teachers in my time," she said, "and you have one of the best."

Laybourne said she earned an English degree in college, but started doing improvisational comedy in New York City in the 1990s.

"I would write comedy bits during the day and go perform them at night with old friends who are now famous," she said.

Zach Galifianakis, Amy Poehler, Mark Maron, Louis C.K.—it was a wild time for comedy in New York's lower east side. Saturday Night Live producer Lorne Michaels watched one of her shows and that led to a role in the 1999 comedy "Superstar," starring Will Ferrell.

Laybourne gave up comedy for writing after she was married and became a mother. She pitched the idea for a novel to her agent and "Monument 14" was bought by MacMillan Publishers. She's now about to begin work on her third book.

The story tells about 14 students who are trapped inside a big box superstore while a series of natural and unnatural disasters unfold outside. Laybourne said at one point she began wondering what was wrong with her to create such a dark story that's so tough on her characters.

"I think the darkness of the story really serves as a backdrop to allow the characters to care for each other and take care of each other, and to stand up for what's right," she told the class. "I hope readers will see a spark of their own goodness."

Laybourne was asked how she came up with the idea for blood types serving as a key to the story.

"I get a lot of my best ideas when I'm out walking," she said. "I was walking down the street in Manhattan, talking to my husband about the book. I knew a chemical spill was coming, but I wished that it didn't affect them all in the same way."

That's when the idea of blood types came to mind.

Why make Astrid pregnant?

There were several reasons, Laybourne said, including giving the character Dean a reason to stay. She said sometimes a character speaks to the author. That's her mystical answer.

"Sometimes an author gets a sense of something happening," she said. "Either it feels right or it doesn't, and if it doesn't feel right, you have to tear it up and start again, and go in a different direction."

Laybourne said it took about two years to write "Monument 14," much longer than it should have. After her initial chapters were bought by the publisher, she wrote a long, long second section which wasn't well accepted.

"I got one of those scary letters that writers sometimes get," she remembers: "We think you're a very talented writer but this manuscript isn't the book that we bought."

She could feel her heart sinking and she wondered if the publishers would want their money back. It wasn't that bad. The editor thought the story could be fixed so Laybourne began re-writing, picking and choosing the best portions from the long version. By then she knew her characters quite well.

Her second novel went much faster and she expects to have the third book completed in about eight months.

She was asked if she ever got discouraged while writing the book.

"Absolutely," she said. "It's so easy."

When writing fiction an author uses the creative mind and critical mind. Words are written and then assessed to determine if they're any good.

"The problem is that you can't do them both at the same time," she said. "If there's one thing for you to learn from today, it's this: If you're making a piece of art, do not judge it at the same time you create it."

Just then the book chat was interrupted by an announcement from the school office. Due to inappropriate behavior, the seventh and eighth grade students had lost their recess—a humorous interlude for the much older freshmen.

Back to the discussion, Laybourne said that the inner critic can be depressing, especially knowing that most books on the store shelves won't be around in six months. Few have staying power.

"It's really easy to get discouraged and you have to fight for your right to create, within yourself," Laybourne told the class.

How to develop writing skills? Practice, practice, practice. Why the potentially offensive language? She wanted the dialogue to be realistic and she thinks many teens would react to the situations presented with cursing.

After a couple of final questions, the hour was up and the freshmen were on to their next class.

"Don't get into trouble like those eighth graders," Laybourne cautioned.

Been there, done that, quipped a ninth grade student.

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