Assumption alumni publishes his first novel

Kristina Wyman's picture
James Thibeault

It’s been six years since I graduated from Assumption, and I haven’t left the classroom. Once I graduated with my Bachelor’s in English, I went right to teaching into the fall and I haven’t looked back since. Currently, I work at a boarding school in the central Massachusetts area called Eagle Hill School. The school has a variety of gifted students, including a talented artist named Kyle Ebanks who was wonderful enough to design the cover for my debut novel, Deacon’s Folly. I loved the advice Kyle gave to his classmates when the novel was finally published: “Put in the time and you’ll go places.”

At first, this sounded like a pep talk a coach would give to his team. However, as Kyle continued, he was referring to his extra-curricular activities and effort he put into work while in school. Not only is he an honors student, but Kyle is also a member of the robotics club and the captain of the wrestling team. There is no doubt in my mind that Kyle will succeed after he graduates from high school. I wish I heard that advice when I was his age. During high school, I barely paid attention and did very little work. When I was accepted to Assumption, clearly they saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself. I knew that if I was going to succeed, I had to “put in the time.”

Freshman year [SIC], I spent most of my free time searching for new and exciting opportunities. In the fall, I joined the Improvisation club and acted in my first ever play, “Damn Yankees.” For the next four years, theatre would become my life. I loved the stage so much, that sophomore year, I decided to write a play that all of my friends could act in. The play was called The Big Game, an over-the-top comedy where a group of football fans are convinced a bobble-head is the source of all their team’s good fortune. My friends and I had so much fun, we decided to produce two more plays: And The Rose Will Have Its Own and Love at Its Finest. During my time at Assumption, developing and performing these plays were some of my favorite moments. With so many of my peers also interested in theatre, my friends and I created Merely Players, a student-led theatre club that allows students to act, produce and direct full length and one-act plays. It’s amazing to hear that it’s still very much active.

Putting in all this time opened several doors for me. I could have simply showed up to class and coasted for four years—like in did in high school—but all this extra work paid off. I was offered my first teaching job because the school was looking for an English teacher with theatre experience. If I had graduated with just the degree, I’m not sure I would have secured that job. Secondly, I realized how much creating those plays had improved my writing. By my junior and senior years, I was published in several literary journals. While they were small publications, it was a start and gave me the confidence I needed to proceed to the next step.

A few years later, my novel, Deacon’s Folly, debuted. The story is about a broken young man named Devon who has lost his family and his history. When he begins to recall blocked memories, the troubles of his past threaten to overtake his present. Once he pulls back the layers of his past with the help of the town’s curious new deacon, Devon must face the horrors of his former self. I wrote the short story version of the novel during my senior year for a creative writing class. When I submitted the story to journals, many said it was too complex for a short story. The result was stretching and developing the story until it was the length of a novel. Many of the themes and humor were inspired from the last play I wrote at Assumption, And The Rose Will Have Its Own. I can’t imagine where I would be if I didn’t spend all that extra time with theatre.

I agree with my student Kyle to “put in your time.” Meet new people, join a variety clubs and try new things. I came to Assumption having no idea what I wanted to do with my life. Eventually, my courses and experiences with theatre helped me find something I was passionate about. Hopefully, Assumption will provide you with the same opportunities it gave me.

Deacon’s Folly is available to purchase for ebook and paperback on Barnes and Noble and Amazon.

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