Since she was in sixth grade, Olivia Ferrante DiRuffano, 17, of Damascus has wanted to be a published author.
Now, the Damascus High School senior has achieved that dream. Olivia recently won the opportunity to have her original work published in a book by best-selling author James Patterson.
Olivia said she found out she won the Nevermore Fanfiction Writing Contest in June. She had just finished taking a French exam the last week of her junior year when she got the call from contest officials.
“I had to resist the urge to scream with happiness,” Olivia said.
The national competition asked participants to write a suggestion for the last chapter of “Nevermore: The Final Maximum Ride Adventure,” the final book in Patterson’s young adult science fiction series “Maximum Ride.” Contest organizers received about 500 submissions from across the country. Olivia’s chapter, which was read and reviewed by Patterson, will be published in the paperback version of “Nevermore,” scheduled to be released Jan. 1, 2014.
“Olivia’s submission was fabulous and we really enjoyed it,” said Gabrielle Pirano, digital marketing and editorial intern with Little Brown Books for Young Readers, the New York-based publisher of the Patterson series.
The hardcopy version of the book was released in August.
Olivia, an avid science fiction and fantasy writer, said she found out about the contest from a friend.
”He was a fan of the series, but he was too old to compete, so he told me about it because he knew I liked to write,” she said. “I thought, ‘Hey, it will be fun.’”
The contest was open to those ages 13 to 18 in the United States.
Olivia said she had not read Patterson’s book series before deciding to enter the competition, she said.
Using Edgar Allen Poe’s poem “The Raven” as a framework, Olivia said she wrote her submission — a 498-word chapter — in one day. She submitted it in April.
“The main characters in the series have been through so much crap in their lives, and so I decided to just make it sort of a peaceful ending,” she said. “When I found out the title of the book was ‘Nevermore’ I remembered Edgar Allen Poe, so I kind of put a new interpretation of his poem in there.... I used the rhyme structure to create a new poem about the characters.”
For Olivia, writing is an obsession.
“When I’m really angry, when I’m really happy I get my best inspiration,” she said.
The feeling of knowing soon people worldwide will be able to read her words is indescribable, Olivia said.
“It’s pretty awesome,” she said.
It’s a sentiment that Damascus High School Principal Robert Domergue agrees with.
“I’m very excited; I’m very, very proud of her,” he said. “For her to have the opportunity to do something that she likes to do and get it in a book is great.”
Domergue said that Olivia’s accomplishment will have a positive influence on the school’s population.
“I think it really sends a message that you should be willing to try something that you enjoy,” he said.
Now, Olivia said she is about 100 pages into a novel of her own. In addition to having her chapter published, Olivia also won an iPad 2, the complete series of “Maximum Ride” signed by Patterson and a $2,500 scholarship. She hopes with the scholarship and sales from a book she is writing, she will be able to go to one of about 10 colleges she is considering attending after she graduates in 2013.
“I really want to get my book out by the end of this year so I have some way to pay for college,” she said.
Olivia said the book is very complex but reminiscent of “The Hunger Games” book series.
Olivia said Emory University, in Atlanta, Ga., is at the top of her school list.
“It’s like the best writing university in the United States,” she said.