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Fifth-grade author on the ‘write’ track

Student’s story wins writing award

Caledonia – Dutton Elementary fifth-grade student Zack Zupin dreamed of one day casually walking into his school, pulling out a book in class and seeing his name written across the bottom of the cover.  

Zack is now one step closer to his dream coming true, thanks to the Write Michigan Contest through the Kent District Library. His short story, “Who Knows Where the Railroad Goes” is now published in the Write Michigan Anthology and received the Readers’ Choice Award in the Youth category. 

“This past summer, I wanted to type up a kids’ book, and I came up with the rhymes for the places the railroad went,” Zack explained. “A few months later, I learned about the short story contest and submitted mine.”

The opening line reads “Over the river, under the snows. Who knows where the railroad goes?” The imaginative story follows the railroad through various terrains, past animals and concludes with a message from the author. 

The 2021 Write Michigan Anthology will be available for purchase at Schuler Books this spring. 

Dutton Elementary fifth-grade student Zack Zupin is now a published author in the Write Michigan Anthology. (courtesy)

Third Time’s A Charm

According to Zack’s mom and Dutton Elementary’s librarian Nanje Zupin, Zack began reading between ages 3 and 4, inspired by watching his older sisters read. He wanted to be just like them and started writing stories too.  

“He wrote his first chapter book in kindergarten,” Zupin said. “It was called ‘The Ant’s Apple’ and it actually made sense for a kindergartner, with page after page of words.”

Zack’s mom told him about the Write Michigan contest. After entering short stories twice, Zack took his shot a third time with “Who Knows Where the Railroad Goes.” 

He was thrilled to discover he won. 

“Ohh yeah, I was so excited,” Zack said. “I was minding my own business and my mom called me to the living room, and I knew something was up when she told my dad to start recording my reaction. I could not stop jumping up and down; I was so excited.” 

The story’s dedication reads to Zack’s mom and dad: his “two good luck charms.” 

Schoolwide Support

Zack’s excitement continued at school when Principal Shawn Veitch congratulated him on the morning announcements. When his classmates heard the news, they gave him a round of applause. 

Veitch described Zack as an outstanding, intelligent and bubbly student who is always willing to help others. 

“He made it happen,” Veitch said. “It takes initiative to sign up and go through the process outside of the classroom, and he went above and beyond to pursue his dream. There is nothing more rewarding as an educator to see a child have a dream and watch them achieve it.”

Veitch said Zack’s accomplishment is a reminder that great things are still happening despite these tough times. 

“So much stuff has been stripped away from our kids because of the pandemic,” Veitch said. “To see a student who has a passion and a proud smile on his face has brought me so much joy.”

Zack attributes his love for writing to his teachers at Dutton and what he’s learned about words and writing formats in fourth and fifth grade. 

“Writing is fun,” Zack said, smiling. “Some days I just wake up and think ‘Hey, I’m gonna get back to writing today.’”

In addition to writing, Zack Zupin enjoys reading books and building with Legos. (courtesy)

When it comes to creating a rhyme scheme, Zack works to adapt his language to make it work for overall story flow. 

“Sometimes it’s hard to think of a rhyme, and sometimes I change words to make a better rhyme,” Zack explained. “If you’re writing a story, depending on the kind of book it is, sometimes you want to use stronger words.” 

According to fifth-grade teacher Nick Slot, Zack holds himself and his writing to higher standards  than most fifth-graders. 

“Zack is a teacher’s dream,” Slot said. “ He excels at everything because he puts in so much time and effort into everything that he completes. He absolutely loves writing and is super creative. I love his personal style and his writing ability is beyond his years.”

“Zack has a true passion and gift for writing,” added fourth-grade teacher Tyler Werner. “He provides thoroughness in his work and exceptional description and detail to paint the picture of his story for his reader.”

Zack enjoys combining his gift for writing with his love and knowledge of animals. In fourth grade, he produced engaging stories with compelling plots, Werner said. “I fully expect that someday I will be recommending Zack Zupin’s books to my future students to enjoy.”

Goals for the future

Zack is already working on ideas for his first novel. Read another one of his short stories here.

“One day I want to publish a bigger chapter book series,”he said.  “I’ve had some ideas flow through my head. Some ideas, like the one for this story, hit you like ‘Hallelujah! There’s an idea.’”

Zack’s goals also include expanding his vocabulary by reading more books and practicing using the words he learns in his writing.

Like the railroad in his story, who knows where Zack’s love for words will lead.

“Finishing the book was a major success because you can look back on the work you’ve done and be proud of what you’ve done,” Zack said. “Some of the lines and rhymes  I looked back at and thought, ‘Wow, they’re really good!’”

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Alexis Stark
Alexis Stark is a reporter, covering Caledonia, Kenowa Hills, Godfrey-Lee, Grand Rapids and is a roving reporter for GRCC, Wyoming, Kentwood and Byron Center. She grew up in metro Detroit and her journalism journey brought her west to Grand Rapids via Michigan State University where she covered features and campus news for The State News. She also co-authored three 100-question guides to increase understanding and awareness of various human identities, through the MSU School of Journalism. Following graduation, she worked as a beat reporter for The Ann Arbor News - covering stories on education, community, prison arts and poetry.  Following a stint as a copywriter for a Grand Rapids area PR firm, she transitioned from communications to freelance writing and reporting for SNN. Read Alexis' full bio

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