(Posted October 4, 2004)

HUNTINGDON, Pa. -- Most people wait until they have accrued major life experience before tackling the Great American Novel. Rae Walensky, a junior at Juniata College, figured why wait?

The precocious student, who is studying psychology and writing at the college, published "Terranova" earlier this year. The novel, which Walensky places in the fantasy genre, tells the story of an imaginary world that is thrown into chaos by a mysterious being uniquely gifted with free will. The story traces the arc of the character through the upheaval caused by the being's influence and his adventures as various factions intrigue to struggle for control of Walensky's fantasy world.

"It's really a book about spirituality that I wanted to tell in an unconventional way," says Walensky, who writes under the pen name Raleigh Sky. "Basically I created a fantasy society and made up my own rules for the world they live in. It was a lot of fun creating and then breaking the rules."

The book is published by iUniverse, an Internet publisher that prints on demand when an author makes a sale. The 216-page novel has sold about 20 copies and amassed sales of $200. Walensky gets to keep royalties of 20 percent of sales, so it's clear the student from Sarasota, Fla. did not write the book to make her fortune.

Although the Internet publisher is a print-on-demand operation, it should not be considered a vanity press, where would-be authors can print anything. Walensky explains she went through an extensive editing process. She was assigned an editor who sent back her manuscript with a 20-page list of corrections and suggestions.

"It was a pretty grueling process," she says. In addition, she asked Peter Goldstein, professor of English at Juniata and a published poet, to take a look at the book before she submitted it for publication.

"It was a very ambitious undertaking and she has a tremendous amount of potential," Goldstein says. "She has the imagination to create her own world on the page and remain passionate about writing."

Walensky says she probably won't attempt to write another novel until she's out of college. She wrote "Terranova" in about five months starting it in September 2003 and finishing it in January. "I wrote constantly and my GPA suffered," she admits. "I will probably wait until I go to graduate school before trying another one."

Contact April Feagley at feaglea@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3131 for more information.