Milken virtually sat down with four alumni writers for a conversation about their book publishing journeys, creative inspiration, and reflections on their Milken experience.
Meet Bella Spencer '20, writer of the children’s book, Scarlet and the Ancient Amulet. She joined us via Zoom from Hong Kong, where she is spending a gap year.
How is your gap year going so far?
I've been interning at a place called AIA, which I love. I'm learning a lot and have been reconnecting with friends and family because I used to live here - and publishing a book!
What is your book about?
My book it's called Scarlet and the Ancient Amulet - I would say it's a cross between an Indiana Jones and a Magic Tree House book and that there's adventure, it's also fantasy - it's things that could never really happen.
How did you decide to write a book? What was your inspiration?
I would say that my book journey definitely started in high school. My favorite class that I've ever taken was creative writing with Mr. Moran. I finally took it and senior and I was like, wow, maybe this is what I want to do with my life.
My main source of inspiration for writing this book was my younger brother. He was in online school and I just remember walking by his room and feeling terrible for him because he's a kid. He shouldn't have to deal with pandemics and being stuck at his house. He should be out like playing tag with his friends and learning how to grow up. I decided that I wanted to write a children's book for kids who are in similar situations so they could have an escape from reality.
Growing up in Hong Kong, you didn't arrive in California until your freshman year of high school. What were your first impressions of Milken?
I vividly remember walking down the gray cement steps, freaking out. I didn't know what was going to happen. I am in a foreign country, with foreign people, and I remember people just automatically coming up to me and welcoming me. And in that moment I knew that I was going to be okay.
What was the sense of community like at Milken?
One thing that definitely stood out for me, from my Milken experience, is that people were just incredible. And that also teachers, teachers there, they care about their students so much. I remember staying late after classes and teachers just being like, let me help you-you're not going to leave until you understand this concept. It's so beautiful to me that the teachers really cared about what the students were going through. If you had something going on at home, they made sure that they were there for you, not just as an educator, but also as a friend, which is super valuable.
What else stands out to you about your Milken experience?
I had so many different opportunities to do whatever it was that I wanted. If there wasn't a club, you could make it. And there was a club for everything so you didn't really have to make it. I remember being a part of student ambassadors or student council and being able to just make so many different friends from that and become close with my different teachers. The college counseling community is insane. I could not have gone through my college process without it. I remember all my friends from different high schools saying how stressed they were. I remember being like, I wasn't really that stressed because I felt like I had someone helping me the whole time and making sure that I was okay. Obviously it was stressful, don't get me wrong, but I remember feeling like I could do it because people helped me when I needed help and that they truly cared for me and my individual experience.
What advice would you give to current Milken students?
For students at Milken or just high schoolers in general-just make sure that you take time out of your day to notice the beautiful things. Don't just become a robot-there's so much going on around you so take opportunities for the many cool things that Milken can offer you. It's really easy to just fall into this routine and do your own thing. Everyone has their own thing that they do, but it's also important to go out and make friends or join new clubs because there's so many things that you wouldn't realize that you'd be interested in. High school does go by fast so just enjoy it because you're only a high school student once.