Preparing for the Scripps National Spelling Bee had an added benefit for Shadya Coureur. Expanding her vocabulary will help fuel another of her many passions: writing books.
“I will definitely use this experience to write another book,” says the 13-year-old St. Croix resident, who represents the US Virgin Islands. “I learned a lot of new words, and I will use some of them in my next book.”
This will be Shadya’s 10th.
In the past three years, the eighth grader at Free Will Baptist Christian School says she has written nine books.
“When I start writing, everything comes to mind, which is why I’ve written nine books,” Shadya explains. “I finish one idea and then I have another idea and again and again and again.”
His mother, Sauda Ali-Coureur, confirms this pattern. “I said to him, can you write just one book? But before she finished her first, she started writing the second. Ideas come to her, and she continues to write.
The nine books Shadya (spelling 217) has written so far are all different. They span genres from adventure to fantasy to mystery, which reflect the types of books she likes to read. She says she reads many authors, but specifically mentioned being inspired by the prolific British novelist Roald Dahl. Dahl is well known for his popular children’s novels, including “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”.
“I have a passion for reading, so one day I decided I wanted to try that too, so I started writing my own books and inventing the characters and plots for my books,” Shadya explains. “It’s great fun to do.”
Shadya’s first book is called “The Given”. Because it’s her first, she also says it’s her favorite. “It’s about this girl named Skylar who just moved to a new town. Her grandfather had secret powers, and she meets people at his new school, and they all have secret elemental powers.
A book left behind by Skylar’s grandfather helps her understand her role as leader of the superhero group. Shadya shared this excerpt from “The Given”.
“Don’t be silly, mom, I’m human. I can’t have powers…it’s impossible, right?
“I’m afraid not. I’ll let you read the rest of what is said in the book.
We all looked at the book, and I started to read aloud:
“You are the chosen one. The only one who can open this book. The one who is the leader of the Given. You are the Sun of the Group.
“The chosen one? The Sun of the Group? I don’t understand. I said confusedly.
“Keep reading. This book might also contain something about your friends, if you have the right friends, which I’m pretty sure you do,” mom said.
“Good friends? I didn’t understand anything, but I continued to read.
“Your assistants are your friends. The elements. Wind. Water. Earth. Fire. You will use your power to fight for good.
Thousands of years ago, the Heshmin tribe were our enemies. They took what was ours. They have made us their servants. But the Senga tribe fought for what was right.
By the time you get it, I’ll be dead, but I’m passing this book on to the new Chosen now.
Shadya says the most recent book she wrote is called “Allen City Secrets”. It’s a mystery about a girl with amnesia who faces the consequences of her inability to remember anything.
Joshua McLaney has been Shadya’s English teacher at Free Will Baptist Christian School for three years.
“I’ve had students that age write blurbs that they thought they could turn into books, but I’ve never had someone as dedicated to writing as Shadya,” says- he. “She is very interested in engineering, but she says she also wants to be an author. I think she is very capable and could pursue any career that interests her.
Shadya agrees that she is tech-savvy and loves all things computer and coding, as well as enjoying singing, dancing, and playing volleyball and softball. But she expects her passion for writing to continue and is currently considering self-publishing her books.
While his drive to write and become a published author is deliberate, his participation in the spelling bee is more of a fluke.
“It all happened by chance. I walked into my spelling class and got easy words,” Shadya says. After winning her class’s spelling bee, she won her school’s, district’s, and then the territorial contest, sponsored by The Virgin Islands Daily News, to represent the US Virgin Islands in the Scripps National Spelling Bee.
Hannah Postlewaite, elementary spelling coordinator at Free Will Baptist Christian School, says Shadya doesn’t give herself enough credit. Postlewaite, who is also the principal of Free Will Baptist Elementary School, says Shadya “is super humble, full of grace.”
“Throughout this process, I learned what a hard worker she is,” Postlewaite says. “It’s easy, especially at the school spelling bee, to assume that a student just got lucky or is naturally good at spelling. But it’s very clear that she worked hard for it. I was very impressed throughout the competition, watching her stay calm.
Shadya’s mother echoes her daughter’s boundless work ethic.
“Most of the work she did (to prepare) she did herself. She would come home from school, examine the words and learn the origin and the meaning and I would question her about the spelling,” she said. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for her, so we’re going to do our best.”
Shadya is the second Free Will Baptist student to represent the Virgin Islands at the Bee. The K-12 school with fewer than 250 students was represented by Joey Emmanuel, then 13, in 2003.
“It’s huge. It’s a big deal for our school and we’re very excited,” says Postlewaite, who was Free Will Baptist’s spelling coordinator for about five years. wonderful person, an excellent student. There are not enough good words to say about her.
This is Shadya’s first trip to the continental United States. She says she’s honored to represent her home territory at the 2022 Scripps National Spelling Bee and is very excited to connect with her fellow spellers. “I love meeting new people, so it will be a lot of fun,” she says.
Shadya says she draws her courage and inspiration from 2021 Scripps National Spelling Champion, Zaila Vanguard.
“She was the first black American to win the Scripps National Spelling Bee, so I want to be like her,” she says.
Shadya has a practical view of what lies ahead during Bee Week.
“If I win, that would be super, super amazing. But if I don’t, I will know that I did my best,” she said.
She expects to return with many new friends and material for future books.
“It’s wonderful to see her succeed,” said Principal Postlewaite. “We are blessed to have him in our school and community.”
McLaney, Shadya’s English teacher, agrees. “There’s just something very well rounded about her,” he says. “She looks at problems from all angles. I feel like Shadya is taking everything she’s been given, and she’s just enhancing her natural abilities. I always tell him, one day, when you become president of a company or president of a government and you need a personal assistant, I will come out of retirement. I believe in her and I believe that she is capable of reaching a peak, really.
Editor’s note: This article was featured in the Bee Keeper Magazine which was distributed May 29 to all spellers as part of Bee Week. It is republished with permission from Scripps National Spelling Bee. The competition is scheduled for SaturdayTuesday outside Washington, DC