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McHenry High School graduate and author encourages students to be persistent

Jessica Stilling Sticklor at East Campus

Jessica Stilling Sticklor, 2001 McHenry High School graduate and author, traces her early interest in writing back to being a student at Riverwood Elementary School in McHenry. It was from her success in a Young Authors Competition that the writing seed was planted.

“That’s what got me started thinking about being a writer,” she told McHenry High School students during a recent visit to the McHenry area. Sticklor nurtured that seed throughout high school and it blossomed into a career as a writing teacher and author of several books, including most recently “Into the Fairy Forest,” and “The Beekeeper’s Daughter.”

During visits Feb. 21 at both East Campus and West Campus, Sticklor encouraged students to never give up on their dreams and to always go to the party.

“Showing up -- and this is true for any goal that you have -- is really important,” she said.

“The world is only getting more competitive in all fields.”

Sticklor, who lives and teaches in New York City, said going to parties with other writers and literary folks helped her make connections in the publishing industry. She writes under the names Jessica Stilling and J. M. Stephen.

In high school, English was her favorite subject, Sticklor said. She particularly credits her former teacher Cheryl Myers, now the media specialist at West Campus, for helping her to keep writing. 

Myers invited Sticklor to come speak in McHenry as she did with author Erin Hahn last spring. A 2000 graduate, Hahn’s book “You’d Be Mine” came out last spring, and her upcoming book, “More Than Maybe” is being released in May.

Both Hahn and Sticklor encouraged students to keep pursuing writing -- or whatever their passion is -- even in the face of rejection. Sticklor said it took her more than a year for her first short story to be published in a literary magazine.

“You really have to let rejection sort of roll off of you,” she said.