Nineteen-year-old Kennesaw State University student, Caroline Blair Berman is writing her first novel, a YA fiction titled “Flight.”
“You know,” Berman explained animatedly, “taking off!”
Geared toward a teenage audience, the story follows a young man named Casper whose life transforms after he discovers the existence of an island populated by legendary creatures known as cryptids. They include Big Foot, the Loch Ness Monster and the Jersey Devil.
Casper finds himself pitted against a rich hunter bent on outpacing him and capturing the storied cryptids for profit.
“Flight” also explores issues such as alcoholism, abuse and the struggles of single parenting after Casper’s father leaves him and his mother.
A longtime fan of the supernatural, Berman used Casper to ground the fantastic in reality. “I want to depict him as that everyday man,” she said. “He has a job. He’s 21. He doesn’t have a girlfriend — yet.”
Berman has been writing fiction since she was a child. Born in Richmond, Va., she grew up in Albany and later metro Atlanta. She graduated from Alpharetta’s Mill Springs Academy. Her family attends Temple Sinai and plans to visit Israel for the first time this year in honor of her younger sister’s bat mitzvah.
She attends classes through Kennesaw State University’s Academy for Inclusive Learning and Social Growth, a post-secondary educational experience for students with different intellectual and developmental abilities.
Berman audits university courses as well as classes tailored specifically to academy students, including social growth and development and career training.
The academy is led by Executive Director Ibrahim Elsawy, the recipient of the Carol J. Pope Award for Distinction for creating an inclusive, accessible, respectful and safe climate for all students, faculty and staff with different abilities.
The academy has grown from three students to 41.
“One of the good things about the academy is that we change the expectations of the families [of students with learning differences],” Elsawy said. “I think the impact of the program is not only for the children, but for the parents and the other students at KSU.”
As a part of the academy, Berman began an internship at Kennesaw State’s Writing Center. She worked alongside center coordinator Milya Maxfield, who spoke highly of Berman’s contributions. The center has since offered her a paid position, and Berman was recognized with a Mentorship Award from the university, alongside Maxfield.
Berman’s work consists of maintaining the center’s social media promotions. She creates weekly postings for The Write Place, a creative writing club that meets Tuesday evenings. There she receives feedback on her writing.
“A lot of what we do in the club influences what we do with Caroline’s work,” Maxfield said. She and the other staff members proofread “Flight” in its draft stages, as well as work on world building and character creation, based on the weekly topic discussed.
Although “Flight” is several chapters from completion, Berman hasn’t ruled out expanding the story into a series.
Her love of fiction spans the likes of the “Harry Potter” and “Wings of Fire” novels, ghosts and lore, and colorful characters such as Emotes — a media franchise devoted to fostering emotional intelligence in young people.
Perhaps one day her work will help children relate to the world through fantasy as well.
She hopes to reach peers and teens alike with the support of the academy and the Writing Center staff. Berman still credits her interest in writing to a childhood teacher. “She told me that I had a huge imagination and that I shouldn’t let that go to waste.”