Inspired by Jane
Paging through a notebook one April morning, Jil Fiemeyer encountered a three-paragraph passage her daughter Jane wrote at the hospital during her 13-month battle with acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
"Chapter 1, Shy guy," introduced the character Bobby Quinn, a kindergartner without any friends.
It was clear to her mother that Jane intended for it to be the beginning of a book - "You can't have Chapter 1 without having a Chapter 2," Jil said - but Jane was never able to finish the story. Wadena's "Princess Warrior" died in September 2012, just weeks before her ninth birthday.
By chance, the day she discovered Jane's chapter, Jil was already scheduled to read to Jeff Mehl's fourth grade class at Wadena-Deer Creek elementary. Many of his 19 students were Jane's friends and classmates. Immediately inspired, Jil decided to issue a challenge to the class: Finish what Jane had started.
"The concept was just planted in my head," Jil said. "It was Jane's inspiration to finish her book."
Without hesitation, Mehl agreed to the idea.
After sharing stories about her daughter, Jil presented the surprise assignment to the class. She read Jane's chapter, then asked each student to write a chapter of their own. The 19 chapters, each chronicling a different period of Bobby Quinn's life, were randomly assigned.
The students didn't know what happened in any of the other chapters until Jil returned with the finished book last Tuesday and read it to the class.
"That was the challenge," Jil said. "That was part of the fun of it."
Filled with humor and wisdom, the final product featured impressive writing, she said, noting that despite being written in isolation, the chapters flowed seamlessly.
"I think you guys did a fabulous job," Jil told the class as she presented them with their own hand-bound copies of the book, titled "The Life of Bobby Quinn." "You are all the authors. Now you can go home and share your story with your friends and family."
Mehl said his students had a lot of fun with the project.
"It turned out brilliantly," he said. "I was very, very impressed."
Fourth-grader Lauryn Gravelle said her favorite part of the book was Chapter 17, "Getting Married."
"Bobby met a girl at Walmart," wrote Kaci Jobe. "She was beautiful, her name was Lilly. They met when Bobby was getting food. Lilly was next to Bobby and crash bang went the carts, food went everywhere."
Gravelle, who wrote about Quinn's sophomore year, said "it was cool to finish a story that Jane started."
The Princess Warrior would have loved the book, said Cecilia Lindquist, author of the "Third Grade" chapter.
"It's still hard without her," Lindquist said."She was a really good friend. She was kind. She had a sense of humor. She was a fighter."
She didn't just fight for herself. While undergoing treatment, Jane raised more than $2,000 for cancer research by selling wallets and bags she made out of funky-printed duct tape.
"I think Jane inspired all these kids to be better people," Jil said.
Her daughter's spirit, she said, shines through the book her classmates finished, especially in the final chapter, which Camille Fleming penned.
"There will always be bad and good times, but just get back up and keep on moving along. There is always someone there for you and with you always no matter where you are!!!," Fleming wrote.
Jil called it "the perfect ending to a perfect book ... I'm so proud of these kids."