Carrigan teacher releases prequel to first published novel
Carrigan teacher releases prequel to first published novel
Posted on 04/08/2015
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WEST HAVEN, April 7, 2015 — Carrigan Intermediate School teacher Robin Cannon was proud to see her first novel, “Tilly Fig,” released last spring after years of writing and searching for the right publisher. But she knew there was more of the characters’ story that needed to be told.

Now she’s releasing her second book, “Rye Hill,” which she’s calling a prequel to her first novel, as it focuses on tragic childhood events that made a lasting impact on a main character of “Tilly Fig.”

“Tilly Fig” follows the adventures of a young girl named Tilly, her relationship with a close friend named Skeet, and her quest to solve a murder mystery years later when she is an adult. “Rye Hill” jumps between the past and present to delve deeper into Skeet’s past, a horrific event that he witnessed, and his relationship with his parents.

“What motivated me to do this was that people are now so interested in everybody’s backstory. We see on TV the behind-the-scenes story of this TV show or this actress or actor,” said Cannon, who has taught in the West Haven Public School District for nearly three decades. “Tilly and her history with her mother is kind of given in ‘Tilly Fig,’ but Skeet is the most controversial character, so ‘Rye Hill’ is about where he comes from, where he’s been, and what got him to the place where he is in ‘Tilly Fig.’”

Maine-based book publisher Goose River Press published Cannon’s first book last spring and will officially begin distributing her second on April 15. Both titles are intended for readers who are 13 and older, and both have used Cannon’s family members for the cover artwork. Two of her children are in the cover photo of her first book, and her nephew is on the cover of her second. And if the scenery on the “Rye Hill” cover looks familiar, that’s because the photo was taken at Savin Rock.

But while Cannon finished “Tilly Fig” over the span of a decade after first starting the storyline in the 1990s, “Rye Hill” took her only about six months to complete. That’s partially due to a bad winter in 2014 that gave her plenty of time at home to write, she says.

Cannon hopes to continue writing more books and would love to tap into her passion for history, specifically Russian history and royalty. Her dream, she says, is to travel to Russia and conduct research on royal archives for a book.

Right now, she’s busy teaching her Carrigan fifth-graders and using her own writing experiences to help her students. She doesn’t use her novels in the classroom, but has shown students proofs of the final product.

“I always tell them to write about what they know, what they’re passionate about, what makes them happy. When they do the editing process, they edit their own work and then switch with a neighbor. I know from experience that when you edit your own work, you don’t always see your own mistakes,” Cannon explained. “My kids do tons and tons of writing, and we’re currently working on poetry.”

She also encourages parents to have their children keep a journal and to talk with them about their writing.

Seeing how hard her students work gives Cannon plenty of motivation to keep pushing forward with her own writing, and she’s excited her perseverance has paid off.

“I just think people will really like the new book,” she said. “I’m proud of it. It’s got a bit of a message, and I think it sort of speaks to the character and his family and what he went through.”

Colette Bennett, the school district’s coordinator for English, Social Studies and library media studies, says Cannon serves as a great example for West Haven students because she is a published author.

“She shares her writing with an audience beyond the classroom in an authentic way.  Her books allow our students to see how writing can be a career choice, a passion, or both,” Bennett said.

And Cannon’s students agree it’s special to have an author as a teacher. Noah, a fifth-grader in Cannon’s class, said Cannon has helped him to become a better writer and that he’s come to enjoy it as a hobby. He says his favorite things to write about are baseball and how fun it is to play the sport.

“Mrs. Cannon has told us about her books and how they’re very descriptive and for kids a little older than us,” he said. “It’s fun to have an author as a teacher because you can learn from her how to be a better writer.”

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