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Louisville's story: 8 teen authors to publish a book

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A section of the library at the Academy of Shawnee. A section of the library at the Academy of Shawnee.
Taylor Winemiller Taylor Winemiller
Devante Urbina Devante Urbina
Darby Thompson Darby Thompson

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - The stories of your neighbors are about to hit store shelves for all the world to read. This spring, the organizers of The Louisville Story program will publish their first book, filled with the personal stories of eight west Louisville high school students. 

This started as a program to encourage literacy and writing in Louisville. It remains that at its heart, but what you'll see on shelves will mean so much more. Passion: that's what you hear from Taylor "Nala" Winemiller when you ask her about books. 

"If the book is not so big, I'll read like seven books a week," said Winemiller. "I love going into the story that the author has made." 

Now, in a twist of fate, the library aide is the author and the story is about her own life. 

"I'm not going to give everything away but it is a difficult story, like something that you would never believe would happen but that did happen," Winemiller said. 

Winemiller and seven other classmates at the Academy at Shawnee will see their personal stories published in a book this spring. Devante Urbina's tale starts by not judging his book by its cover. 

"Well now they look at me and they're like, 'Oh well that's the school kid. He goes to school and everything,'" Urbina says of people who might pass him by on the street. "If I take off my hoodie you'll see that I have tattoos all on my arm, things like that and they'll think, 'Oh he wants to be some thug or something like that.'" 

There's a reason for that, Urbina said - a tough neighborhood - some hard knocks. 

"I was homeless and things like that," said Urbina.  

Now his life has taken a turn toward a brighter future. The whole evolution is his story. 

"I really want the story to be told to understand why that happened or how I grew up that way and how I got better and how anybody can get better," he said. 

"It's just really a testament to the stories that each of us has," said Darcy Thompson, director of The Louisville Story Program. 

Thompson had the inspiration for the program. He said he was searching to get involved in a community-based literacy and writing program and couldn't find one.  Now he's created a way to let voices we don't normally hear speak loudly. 

"If you really take the time to get to know one another and consider one another's stories, I just think we then start to interact with people in our communities in different ways," Thompson said.

Over the entire summer and into the fall, for four hours or more each week, Thompson and others helped the eight students first write and then fine tune their stories. 

"One is writing a lot about her mother, who passed away from a drug overdose last fall," he said. "Another is writing about his experience at the Academy at Shawnee, particularly the aviation program. Another one is writing a lot about how growing up, his grandfather was a really important mentor to him." 

The professional, high-quality book that will come out this spring has, in many ways, exceeded expectations. 

"It's absolutely what I dreamed of," Thompson said. "I had high hopes that we would be able to do the book that we're producing here and it's completely a testament to our eight authors and their hard work." 

"Once, when I was actually in juvenile detention, I told someone I was going to write a book about my life and I didn't write an entire book, but I got a chapter," Urbina said. 

Winemiller always wanted to be a published author, to take others where books have taken her. Soon, she'll be shelving the story of her life. 

"This book has my chapter in it and I'm putting it on a shelf where other people can read this because I'm a published author," she said. "This is amazing." 

The Louisville Story Program is not a youth program. 

"Our first project happens to have authors who are young but don't be misled by their youth. They're serious authors," Thompson said. 

They're already working on finding adult authors for the next book. This book launches May 21 with a big event at the Ali Center. You'll be able to buy the book at the center, online and hopefully stores around town. 

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