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Rhea Dhar and Iris Hoffman


Seeing your published novel is an exciting time for any author. It certainly has been for Rhea Dhar and Iris Hoffman, whose book, Element Island: Secrets and Smoke, came out this past March.


“It felt good…after working on it for so long,” Hoffman said.


Their story follows Ember, a young hermit crab on a quest to save his friend, who was captured by a human. Ember is then invited to attend Element Island, where Elemental Crabs learn how to train against humans, and meets a new friend. Throughout the book, Ember discovers new mysteries on the island as he continues his search.


“We were talking about animals we like,” Hoffman said. “Then thought of hermit crabs, which didn’t seem like it had really been done before.”


The duo went through all the steps most writers do – collaborated, wrote, edited, found a publisher – but with the added stress of getting their homework done. And after school activities. Dhar and Hoffman currently attend Derby Middle School, and just finished the eighth grade.


It took Dhar and Hoffman about six months to write the book, and they often alternated between chapters for the writing. Both commented it was more difficult to write at the beginning of the process, but it got easier as they continued. In fact, the ending and epilogue ended up being Dhar’s favorite part to write.


Now that the book is published and out in the world, how does it feel to be getting feedback?


“It’s kind of shocking,” Dhar said. “Like, we were the only ones who read it pretty much, then more people were reading it, and they’re actually enjoying it.”


They hope people of all ages enjoy it, and find some of it funny.


Both Dhar and Hoffman said their parents were really encouraging throughout the whole process. Their publisher, Redwood Publishing LLC, was also incredibly encouraging and helped with all of the complexities that come with getting a book published.


“It was really amazing to see the cover and go through the entire process,” Dhar said.


Be on the lookout for other books from the talented writing duo. They plan to have at least two more books in the series, with the second one already completely written. They’re currently working on the third.


As far as the second book goes, there are multiple new characters being introduced. Dhar said that they’re really fun and shine more because their writing has improved since they published Element Island: Secrets and Smoke.


“It was definitely somewhat easier,” Hoffman said about the second book. “We already kind of knew what works best for us. So we could do the same thing writing the second one and it definitely made it move along a lot faster.”


Hoffman said that if younger kids see that someone not that much older than they are – like a couple of eighth graders – published a book, maybe it would inspire them to publish their own things, too.


“They only really need to be determined enough to actually finish writing and to go through the process,” Dhar said. “It doesn't really take anything that special, as long as you just are willing to follow through with everything.”


While the two aren’t sure what their futures hold, writing will be a part of it in some capacity.


“I definitely am going to keep writing,” Dhar said.


Story: Dana Casadei

Photo: Laurie Tennent

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