Writing: Stanford Online Novel Writing Program

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A novel in progress


Stanford University’s Online Certificate Program in Novel Writing is a two year program where fifteen students draft, workshop, and complete a novel.

My novel’s premise first came to me during the orientation week of my graduate program. My classmates and I went down to the Mr. Rogers Memorial Statue along the North Shore. There, our guide told us how rare it is to find a place where three rivers meet and how, in some cultures, such places are venerated.

It was then I thought, “What if places where three rivers met were rare because magic could only be found in specific places? And what if certain people were tasked with protecting them?”


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Where the three rivers meet, three tragedies take place. Elara is abandoned by her mother to her greatest betrayer, she becomes a symbol of power for some and pain for others, and the magic of the Pennsylvania mountains, forests, and streams are lost. Perhaps forever.

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Elara Smith comes to the Elemental Outpost Where the Three Rivers Meet with Grant, her guardian who is more like an older brother, when they hit their first snag almost immediately. For one, the outpost has always been in an abandoned building, a step aside from the world of the Disconnected. When they move in, they find they have not only one, but two families living next to them. Her first neighbor, Issy, is oddly perceptive and has made it his mission to prove that she uses magic. The other, Mistral, wants nothing to do with her, crushing her dreams finally making friends and having a proper slumber party.

Elara sneaks around Issy to meet her responsibilities as an elemental at the Outpost. Sometimes they involve meeting magical creatures along Pittsburgh’s rivers, but mostly she has to man the reception desk while Grant takes on the more dangerous tasks. She finds out from a customer that the clock is ticking towards her Naming Day: a day that happens every six years for Elementals, during which each elemental is assigned a new, thoroughly common last name to maintain anonymity. If Elara doesn’t prove that she is an Elemental by gaining an Affinity, then she will have to transition to living with Disconnecteds.