BOONE, N.C. — Justin Chandler ’16 graduated from Appalachian State University with a bachelor’s degree in middle grades education-language arts and science as a distance education student at Catawba Valley Community College in Hickory.
Chandler now teaches eighth-grade English/Language Arts at West Alexander Middle School in Taylorsville. He is also the author of the 2015 young adult novel titled “The Guide.”
He’s incorporating excerpts of his book into his classroom to demonstrate that “creative writing does not come from wealth of money, but rather, wealth of creativity,” he said.
Chandler encourages other middle grades teachers to use the book with units on consequences, growth and/or future. He’s currently working on a second novel called “Like,” tentatively scheduled for publication in summer 2018.
One of his former professors in the Reich College of Education, Dr. Laurie Ramirez, described him as “a wonderful writer and a thoughtful, reflective student.” She said Chandler was careful with language, extremely articulate and had a witty, intelligent sense of humor.
“His commitment to young adolescents is clear and his dedication to teaching is exemplary. I am so proud of him and his accomplishments,” said Ramirez, associate professor in Appalachian's Department of Curriculum and Instruction and program director of the middle grades education undergraduate program.
Chandler, who was a recipient of the State Employees' Credit Union Appalachian Partnership Scholarship for distance education students, said his novel evolved from a short story about free will.
“The basic plot elements were thought out until I heard about National Novel Writing Month and I became motivated to turn my short story into a full, 50,000-word young adult novel as a personal challenge. Making the demographic young adult tapped into my desire to teach middle grades,” said Chandler, who is originally from Icard.
National Novel Writing Month, a nonprofit also known as NaNoWriMo, provides the structure, community and encouragement to help people, like Chandler, find their voice and complete a novel.
Middle school students are developing emotionally, socially, physically and culturally while striving to find meaning in the world and where they fit in, Ramirez explained. The young adult literature genre, which Chandler’s books support, is “an avenue for opening up conversations, whether among students or with teachers/parents, that might not otherwise happen but are extremely important for young adolescents to feel affirmed and valued,” she said.
As a teacher, Chandler said he wants “to continue the tradition of fostering the minds of the next generation.”
To young, aspiring writers, he gives this advice: “Let your creativity flow in and out of your lungs; let the words you write take your breath away each time the ink hits the page, and always be willing to take chances in your writing.”