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Bodurtha ’14 writes book based on AP World assignment

Jeren Wei, Staff Writer

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Alumna Val Bodurtha ‘14 published her first book this July, transforming an assignment from her AP World History class in high school into a novel.

The assignment, given by history teacher Dr. Susan Groppi, invited students to imagine and describe the life of an Aztec if the empire had continued to grow. While students were only required to turn in two to three pages, Bodurtha handed in a 10 to 12 page paper, Groppi said .

Groppi was astounded by the character development and the enticing plot.

“On the top of my paper, Dr. Groppi wrote that the paper would be a great young adult novel,” said Bodurtha. With Groppi’s encouragement, Bodurtha independently turned this assignment into a 313 page book called The History Makers. The book is about Myla, a 17-year-old girl who lives in an alternate history where the Aztec empire prospered and the Spaniards never colonized South and Meso America.

Bodurtha had always liked the idea of writing an alternate history and decided to give it a shot. “Dr. Groppi pushed me in the right direction by suggesting the story could be extended,” she said.  Bodurtha wanted to explore the genre because she had never seen alternate histories made for younger audiences before, she said.

“I started turning it into a novel right after I graduated high school and worked on it for two hours a day an entire summer,” Bodurtha said. Bodurtha sent her first draft to Groppi and her parents for review.

After investing endless hours in developing the book, Bodurtha submitted The History Makers to 70 literary agents before it was picked up by BookLogix Publishing two years after she started reaching out to publishers, she said.

“Keeping my expectations reasonable, I didn’t expect it to be picked up by any publications, but it was very exciting when it did come through,” Bodurtha said. BookLogix picked up her book after Bodurtha won Booklogix’s 2015 Young Writers Contest for ages 14-18, Editor at Booklogix Publishing Ashley Stapleton said. 

“We loved how well Val wove her premise into the story. The setting already wowed us, but she kept the momentum going with a story that explored the most dangerous and shocking facets of their world,” Stapleton said.  They were also impressed with the book’s protagonist, Myla, as she was a prominent female character but was not “overwhelmed by love triangles and boy drama,” Stapleton said.

After her book was picked up by a publisher, Bodurtha entered a five month long editing process that lasted from October to this past spring.

“The finished product went through three to four rounds of edits,” Bodurtha said. Fortunately her editors did not give her a standard deadline because she was a student, which allowed her to manage her time as a student and a writer, Bodurtha said.

“The editors made minor tune-ups on the story and writing, but it’s cool that so much of the book stayed the same from the beginning,” Bodurtha said.  Most of the changes that were made to her book focused on getting Bodurtha to work on fleshing out the setting of the modern day Aztec Empire and explaining the characters’ reactions to key events, Stapleton said

After finally publishing the book, it was listed as a must read by the New York Post.

“I am incredibly proud of her,” Groppi said. “It’s hard to get a book published at such a young age.”

After publishing The History Makers, Bodurtha hopes to publish a sequel, she said

In the acknowledgements of her book, The History Makers, Bodurtha dedicated the book to the  school and thanks the community and its teachers for helping her grow as a thinker and as a writer.

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Bodurtha ’14 writes book based on AP World assignment