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Local 10-year-old is serious writer

Emma Keene reflects on Christmas

By DAWN HANKINS - dhankins@t-g.com
Posted 9/10/22

She’s only 10, but Emma Keene is already serious about her writing. She recently completed a Christmas story titled, “I miss you Santa.”  

Like a lot of kids her age, Emma …

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Local 10-year-old is serious writer

Emma Keene reflects on Christmas


She’s only 10, but Emma Keene is already serious about her writing. She recently completed a Christmas story titled, “I miss you Santa.”  

Like a lot of kids her age, Emma has sort of outgrown the zealous notion of the jolly man in the red suit, a.k.a., Santa. But in her heart, the spirit of Christmas lives on forever.  

From sleighs to candy canes, she’s all in.  

So much so, a turn of events last Christmas inspired her to create a story about a fictional character named Lily. With much imagination, the little girl has a grand adventure with who else but Santa.  

Lily, based on Emma’s friend by the same name, is a red-headed little girl adorned in a purple dress. Emma says in her stories, she always leaves room for readers to decide what she really looks like.  

“I tell them the things she looks like, but they can imagine how they want to see her, in their mind. I want it to be unique for everyone.”  

Emma describes how she got the idea for Lily’s adventure. “This story is basically about what I hoped was going to happen to me.” 

Young author  

“When I have a thought, I can’t really rest, until I get it written down. I’ll go down to the computer. I will see where I’m at . . . does this fit in the line, where I am right now? If it doesn’t “fit,” she keeps writing and writing and writing, she says.  

Emma’s genre of writing right now is, well, fun. She’s written Halloween stories and even stories about “the mean girl.” But this latest Christmas story was extra special, she notes.  

Perhaps it was the holiday detail? Or perhaps it was because her main character has the same name as her best friend?  

Whatever it is that draws Emma to writing, she knows that she finds Christmas-themed stories much more interesting. She believes readers feel the same.  

Emma says she’s careful about her use of imagery or description of her characters. “When I say Lily and Santa Claus . . . everyone is going to see my story different. I want them to imagine what it’s going to look like in their mind.”  

She’s already read books that she believes contain too much detail. “I leave room for people to picture what it’s going to look like. I don’t tell them exactly what it is. I tell them what I see it as.”  

For example, she sees Rudolph’s nose as a red, glass ball and a red, lit candle. Others could see it much different.  

In addition to writing, Emma, a home school student, also enjoys drawing comic strips. Her mom has used her comic strips as a visual aid in spelling class.  

By the way, the name “Lily” also appears in Emma’s comics. She admits she likes that name. But don’t look for too many sequels from this young author.  

When discussing her particulars for writing a good story, Emma is also not easily persuaded to change any scenes or situations. Her mom jokes that like any author, she already takes a lot of ownership over her stories.  

The story  

Call it a gift or just for fun right now, Emma is obviously advanced in the field of language arts. Her brother, Elijah, age 12, seems to have been gifted with more math skills. So, their parents are quite proud.  

Mom, Lorie, also an author and educator, says she has always read a lot of stories to her children. They also set aside enough time for independent reading within their homeschool setting.  

Emma’s bookshelf of course still includes those teen-centered books like “Diary of the Whimpy Kid.” Lorie says while it might be considered “whipped cream” or fluff type literature, she wants her daughter to enjoy reading. So those books are good too for such a young author.  

Right now, the Keene children are assigned to read “The Diary of Anne Frank.” Mom/teacher also has them listen to audio readings so that they might absorb inflection and modulation-a varying of tone throughout the speech, that is, raising one’s voice slightly to indicate a question, lowering it to end a declarative sentence, speaking louder to indicate excitement or softer to express sadness. Authors use this technique to keep their audience interested.  

As she talks, Emma exudes such language techniques. Lorie believes Emma has a gift, so she wants to strengthen those skills even more. “I’ve been really impressed with how she’s just kind of coming out with that imagery. It seems to be innate with her.”  

Emma explains some of the lines in her story. She says, “Lily loves all the holidays. But there’s no holiday more special to her than Christmas.”  

That line resonates with Emma, because of how she loves Christmas. So much in fact, her young imagination and her hopes and dreams were all the inspiration she needed to finish her story.  

Another favorite line: “Lily played and played with her new toys but soon she was bored. These toys are getting boring. I want new ones,” said Lily very disappointed. “Sigh… I miss you, Santa. That night, Lily decided to write Santa a letter.”  

Keene family homeschool  

Emma’s dad is Stephen Keene, who serves as pastor of Southside Baptist Church in Shelbyville. And because he is apt to move with his ministry work, Stephen and Lorie decided that homeschooling Emma and Elijah would be more consistent.  

Lorie says she’s not opposed to public school. As a matter-of-fact, her mom was a public school teacher. Lorie has a nursing degree, in addition to her master’s in education and doctorate in theology.  

For her children’s curriculum, she uses Saxon math and Rod and Staff, which originated within the Mennonite community. It’s an “old school” way to learn math, especially for kindergarten to about third grade, she says.  

“It doesn’t bring in new concepts, but is just a very traditional, proven way of teaching math. In fourth, I switch them to Saxon [curriculum.]”  

She also uses Rod and Staff curriculum for English language comprehension. She compliments the program for being so advanced.  

Gather Round curriculum is used for history and science unit studies. “Right now, we’re doing the human body/anatomy and physiology,” says Lorie. “We learn about that part of the body together and then they have their own workbooks.”  

Having a faith-based curriculum, Lorie says, is of course important to her Christian family. But some of her larger concerns, as a mom and as an educator, she says, is the vast expanse of curriculum used in the public school system.  

Within the homeschool setting, she and Stephen make the choices for what their children study. “So if they have a particular interest . . . let them progress or regress at their own stage. If they’re particularly good at math, they can continue to go along . . . advance up to another subject in math. She [Emma] loves writing . . . can move more into that.”  

Emma’s future  

Right now, Emma’s just a young kid working her way through life and school. But as the Keene’s know, God only knows for sure her future.  

But would Emma like to be published some day? She doesn’t give much thought to that right now; she just wants to write.  

To find out what’s in Emma’s story, stay tuned to the T-G’s Christmas edition. We will print the story in its entirety.)  

But for those who are already decorating for Christmas, here’s one more glimpse at Emma’s story: “Lily put on warm clothes, told her doll that she would be right back and quietly snuck down the stairs and unlocked the door. In a burst of joy, Lily ran outside and closed the door behind her. Santa lifted Lily into his sleigh.”