Sophomore expresses personality through writing
For the last 11 months, Zellman has been writing a series of stories with the end goal of becoming a published author. On Sept. 10, he reached his goal
November 9, 2019
Modestly strutting down the halls at school, sophomore Tate Zellman makes sure to connect with someone every day. He asks a friend how they’re doing and says hello to a stranger. This is the nature of Zellman’s personality.
So it comes as no surprise when Zellman published his first novel, he decided to change the title to reflect a benevolent author. Originally titled: “Tate the Great”, he decided the title was too self-centered, so he renamed it to “Litchfield: A Peaceful Western Town”.
“My parents and I thought the original title was a little too self-centered,” Zellman said. “So we decided to change it because that wasn’t the goal of the book; I didn’t want to be all about me.”
Set in Oklahoma during the 1920s, the story follows a young boy named Tate the Great and tells of his travels, trials and tribulations.
Zellman was inspired by the movie “The Magnificent Seven”, which prompted him to start writing his stories. He utilized elements from the film and incorporated them into his stories.
Prior to publishing, Zellman typed his stories on a Google Doc and share them with his friends simply for them to enjoy. But one day, he got a response from one of his friends that he was not anticipating.
“I sent my story out to one of my friends, Emma Akselberg, and she told me that maybe when I was older I can make it into a book,” Zellman said. “And I thought to myself, ‘maybe I can become an author’. So I said ‘I’ll try it’, and that’s when I learned that self-published authors are actually a thing; that’s how I decided I wanted to be an author.”
And it’s just that simple. According to Zellman, he – with help from his parents – researched the self-publishing process and then began working to compile all of his stories into one book.
While Zellman’s decision to publish may have been quick and easy, the writing process and overcoming a period of self-doubt was not so effortless.
“During the process, I wanted to give up,” Zellman said. “I was walking through WalMart with my dad one day, and I was just so upset I yelled ‘I can’t do this’. But I walked myself back after that and remembered: I’ve worked on this for so long, it’s going to be hard, but I can do this.”
Once he regained his confidence, Zellman crossed the finish line on Sept. 10 and published his first novel. Looking back, he says he’d do it all again in a heartbeat.
“I think I have great potential for doing this,” Zellman said. “I have more book ideas in mind, and I would actually like to write a sequel, but I haven’t started yet. I actually started a second book – that’s not in this series – and it’s called The Cunningham’s.”
This is no ordinary situation. It’s not every day a high school student writes and publishes their own novel. But what makes this instance extraordinary is that Tate has been clinically diagnosed with autism.
He chooses not to view his condition as something that holds him back, rather he embraces who he is.
“When I’m around other people, I always try to be myself, and not someone else,” Tate said. “I always want to be truthful with people, even though I have a disability there’s nothing I can do about it.”
He carries that attitude with him into his writing, and he claims because he has autism it allows him to bring a unique perspective to the table and the writing community as a whole.
“I think this book has allowed me to be myself and express myself through my writing,” Zellman said. “Because I have autism, it makes me kind of a unique author, but I’m sure all authors in the world are unique because unique can mean a million different things.”