Young Ho-Chunk to be a Published Author

By Ardith Van Riper

     Ho-Chunk Nation tribal member Jessalyn Smith is to be a published author at the age of 13.  She penned a mini saga called “The Sickness,” and it was about COVID-19.  The saga was an assignment from Longfellow Middle School in La Crosse, Wisconsin, and Ms. Raatz, an eighth-grade teacher, submitted the student stories to the Young Writers contest.

     The contest challenged students to write a mini saga, a story in just 100 words, on the theme of hunted.  Writers could choose to be the hunter or the hunted.  The contest challenged students across the United States, and several winners’ stories will appear in a book called Hunted – Thrilling Tales From The USA.

     Young Writers, established in 1991, is part of a worldwide publishing brand.  According to their website, they pride themselves on “encouraging young writers to read, write and enjoy poetry as well as creative writing.”

     Jessalyn, the eldest of two sisters and one brother, enjoys writing and keeps a daily journal.  She developed her mini saga in her mind while her teacher explained the assignment.  When the teacher released the students to work, Jessalyn wrote her story in about an hour.

     “I read her story and I thought that it was amazing, just the little details that she goes into,” said her father, Adam DeNasha. “She turned COVID into a predator.”

     Hunted – Thrilling Tales From The USA publishes on March 31, 2024.  The softcover book can be ordered for $24.99 online at