Mentor author overcomes disorder, signs books at Mentor CityFest

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

At 22, Jennifer Priester has two books published and hopes to have more of her nine-book series out soon.

The Mentor resident began writing very early in life, as a way to communicate with those around her.

She is much more comfortable with the written word than spoken, as she was diagnosed with selective mutism in kindergarten.

Selective mutism is a social anxiety disorder that makes it very difficult for her to communicate in regular social settings.

Her books have allowed her to express herself in a new way, said family friend and supporter Janet Bennett.

Priester, a publisher as well as author, is hoping to meet new fans this weekend as she sets up a tent to sell her books in the vendor area at Mentor CityFest, taking place at Civic Center Park.

Her stories center on a young girl learning to use magical powers as she faces challenges and change.

So far, Priester has sold about 175 copies of her first book, "Mortal Realm Witch: Learning About Magic," which was released in September. Her second book, "Mortal Realm Witch: The Magic Continues," was released this month.

But that's nothing compared with the number of drafted stories she has. That list tops off somewhere around 200, said her mother, Lorianne.

Her first book is getting a little more attention as it recently won one of five places in a national competition. The competition was conducted by Ampersand H, a book design and marketing agency, for its Summer Reading List program. Her book has been spotlighted on the company's website, .

An avid reader, Priester was absolutely sure that she could not pick a favorite book even if she had to. She laughed out loud and said "no" with a grin when asked.

She talks when comfortable, but does better in small groups or one-on-one interactions.

It's clear that she and her mother have adapted to her social presence, conducting silent conversations with one another. For instance, when interviewed, she would look to her mother as if giving the signal about whether she felt like answering that particular question or not. If not, mom took the lead.

Setting up a table to share her work with the world is something she is more comfortable with, as she's done it a few times, mostly at local libraries.

The library itself is definitely a place of comfort.

It's typical for her to take a 22-gallon tub and fill it up with books to read, Lorianne said.

Her love for reading wasn't always there, her mother added, stating that it was even "like pulling teeth" to get her to read at a young age.

But once she discovered animals in stories — something that she has woven throughout her own tales — she was hooked.

"Wishbone" was the story that did it for her, and throughout school, if there was an animal, she was in.

Some have misinterpreted the magical theme of the stories, but her mother says they're a good read for many ages.

"People are looking at it as dark and serious and it is totally not that way," Lorianne said. "It is more lighthearted … learning, there's a moral lesson throughout her series. There's consequences to good actions, there's consequences to bad things, the whole thing, it flows. She may not have intended to write that, but it's in here and it's beautiful."

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