Caryn Haller

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May 8, 2012
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Valley English teacher publishes second novel

Carson Valley Middle School English teacher Elizabeth Leiknes believes your words are some of the most intimate things you can offer.

The Minden resident is offering up some of her own words in her latest novel, "The Understory," released by Baltimore-based publisher Bancroft Press on June 1.

"It's simultaneously pride and fear to see your name on something that's going to be looked at by a lot of people," Leiknes said. "Writing for me is an absolute escape. It's really stress-relieving, and it helps keep me connected to writing in the classroom."

"The Understory" is based around the protagonist Story Easton who haphazardly meets a 9-year-old boy named Cooper who just lost his dad. They begin a journey together with his mother to help him live his dream of visiting the Amazon rain forest.

"It's about how all of our stories are interconnected," Leiknes said. "I think perhaps just like the title suggests most people are not exactly what they seem. Most of us deep down want to do the right thing. Mostly in this novel I want people to know that grief doesn't have to consume us forever."

As with her first novel, "The Sinful Life of Lucy Burns," Leiknes sent home a letter to her students' parents informing them that it was not intended for young readers.

"I think it's a dark fairytale, not a book for kids. As a teacher I am very careful about making the distinction that this was never intended for young readers," Leiknes said. "In the classroom I love inspiring new writers, but I don't talk about my books in class. I talk about the process of getting a book published."

The idea for "The Understory" came to Leiknes three years ago while reading a picture book about the Amazon rain forest to her sons Hardy and Hatcher.

"It was literally a split second of a gift. It all clashed in my head about the stories that are under the surface of everybody. They explain us and the way we act," Leiknes said. "I love to write about magical things that are shrouded in reality. This book reads like a fairytale, but there's nothing supernatural in it."

Leiknes said she has mixed feelings about being a published author.

"It's really kind of crazy. I feel both proud and exposed. You have to be prepared for various reactions to it," she said. "I think your words are some of the most intimate things you can offer."

"The Understory" won't be released until June 1, but is available for sale on Barnes and and

Leiknes will also be signing copies of her book May 18 at Taildragger Cafe and June 7 at 88 Cups & More.

Book signings

• 3:30-5:30 p.m. May 18, at the Taildragger Cafe, 1150 Airport Road, Minden. Information, 782-9500.

• 4-6 p.m. June 7, at 88 Cups & More, 1663 Lucerne Street, Minden. Information, 783-0688.

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The Record Courier Updated May 8, 2012 07:28PM Published May 8, 2012 07:25PM Copyright 2012 The Record Courier. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.