Ashland High School student publishes 550-page novel

On many a late afternoon last summer, as the sun tattooed shadows on the Oregon Shakespeare Festival's courtyard, Rachel Kambury could be found leaning against a lamppost, making some marks of her own.

The 17-year-old was busy writing a novel.

Every time Rachel got a break from volunteering at the festival's Green Show, an outdoor concert and performance series, she broke out her notebook and went to work.

Now, dozens of notebooks later, the Ashland High School senior has something to show for her efforts: Her 550 page novel, "GRAVEL," is out this month.

"About halfway through writing 'GRAVEL,' I started thinking of myself as a writer," Rachel said during the lunch period at Ashland High School last week. "I'm definitely going to pursue being a novelist."

The book chronicles three generations of American men: a World War II soldier who dies in battle but leaves a journal behind; the soldier's son, who lives in the shadow of the father he never met; and the soldier's grandson, who goes to his grandfather's grave in Germany to uncover the family's secrets.

Rachel, whose family does not have any specific ties to World War II, became fascinated with the era when she did a research paper on the Holocaust in sixth grade, she said.

After finishing editing the book on April 5, Rachel self-published the novel at The book is printed on demand and can be ordered at

The paperback version costs $25.88 and a hardcover copy costs $43.38. Rachel receives about $10 from the sale of each paperback and about $13 from the sale of each hardcover, she said.

Rachel worked on the manuscript for two years, writing for about four hours after school on weekdays and devoting her weekends to the novel.

When the plot sequence stumped her, she enlisted the help of two of her Ashland High School English teachers, Joel Cicerrella and Rick Cornelius.

"Rachel has the self-discipline and the willingness to do the hard work," Cicerrella said.

Rachel, who intends to major in creative writing when she attends New York City's Eugene Lang College next year, is a gifted writer who stood out among many of her peers in the classroom, Cornelius said.

"It was very clear to me that she had an extraordinary passion for language," he said. "She has the instincts of a real writer."

"GRAVEL" is not the first novel Rachel has written, but it's the first one she's published, her father, Dennis, said.

"She's been writing since she was a kid, like five," he said. "But to see her actually go from start to finish and end up with a book like this.... What can you say when your own daughter writes a novel?"

Although she's facing a bit of "post-novel depression," Rachel is already planning to write another book, she said.

"The ideas are pretty constant and I'm just trying to filter them so that whatever I come up with next is a good follow," she said.

Contact staff writer Hannah Guzik at 482-3456 ext. 226 or

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