WICKER PARK — Thursday was a big night in the local publishing world.
Sixty-one students enrolled in the 826CHI after school tutoring program got a taste of what it's like to be published authors, with the release of the center's first chapbook of 2013, "An Elevator with Different Floors."
With an introduction by local author Patrick Somerville, the richly-imagined collection was the result of eight weeks of free-writing done by students age six to 18 who participate in the center's after school program. It was inspired by two founding members of 826CHI, Patrick Shaffner and Kait Steele.
Shaffner and Steele moved on from the center in the fall and appear as valiant heroes in most of the stories, which are populated by evil kangaroos, people who get married so they can "go to the movies for free" and heroes who seek to solve the Statue of Liberty's body odor problems by deodorizing her with "10 million car fresheners for under each underarm," among other gems.
NFL football star Cecil Martin, 37, who played fullback for the Philadelphia Eagles from 1999 to 2002, kicked off the readings with a pep talk about the ingredients to success: hard work, focus and perseverance.
While the 66 pages of adventures contains a myriad of talented voices, three siblings appeared to share a storytelling gene.
Brothers Juan and Jose Flores attend Wicker Park's LaSalle II Magnet School and said writing is their favorite subject.
Second-grader Juan Flores's piece, "Kait and Patrick Going to the Zoo," had Patrick [Shaffner] being thrown into a sewer by a snake ten feet long and the color of grass" which was not named Jose Flores by coincidence.
Jose Flores' deftly-plotted story, "Living in Disney World," had Shaffner and Steele inhabiting the 15th floor of a hotel at Disney World, where Steele enjoys a closet the size of a "tremendous T-Rex" and Shaffner sleeps under "a blanket of $100 bills and changes them daily."
The brothers' sister, fourth-grader Yureli Flores, ended her piece, "The Adventures of Kait & Patrick," (which also served as the chapbook's subtitle), with "2 pups that fell from the sky. Both were girl dogs and their names were Hope and Jingles."
Suffice to say, Hope and Jingles lived happily after after.