By Joe Smillie
Peninsula Daily News
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SEQUIM –– It sounds like a familiar tale.
An author has a dream for the seed of a novel, turns to Google to find the perfect setting and finds the North Olympic Peninsula.
“I know. It kind of sounds like Stephenie Meyer and the Twilight books, right?” Salem, Ore., author Rita Anne Moore said in a recent interview.
Moore has just released a new young adult fiction novel about a school for dead children set in the Dungeness Schoolhouse.
She thinks the book “will appeal to the young adults, and also adults that will find a good story,” she said.
Moore will give two readings from her book, School for the Dead, this weekend: from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Friday at the Museum & Arts Center, 175 W. Cedar St., and from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday at the schoolhouse, 2781 Towne Road.
“Setting is everything for a novel. And I was just so fortunate to have found this wonderful place,” the Willamette University instructor said.
“There's places to hide, there's the stream where kids can play and wildflowers they can pick.”
Moore spent several vacations over the past couple years at the schoolhouse, exploring its hidden corners and attic to develop settings for the book.
The schoolhouse taught children in the Dungeness area from its opening in 1893 until 1955, when the school merged with the Sequim School District.
The building is now managed by the Museum & Arts Center in the Sequim-Dungeness Valley, or MAC.
“We're really excited Rita chose this beautiful old building for her book. Hopefully it will bring a little more attention to it,” said MAC spokeswoman Judy Stipe, who attended the school in her youth.
“But just to be sure, the schoolhouse is not really haunted.”
Moore started on the book as a way to answer to her 6-year-old grandson's questions about death and the afterlife.
“I think it all kicked off from that little kernel of Sebastian asking me about death,” she said.
The story focuses on Tory, a young Seattle girl who dies falling from a fire escape.
When her pregnant mother chases after her in a rescue attempt, Tory pushes her away to keep her mother and unborn brother from falling after her.
She dies and goes to the Dungeness Schoolhouse, where she is enrolled in a mysterious school for children who died while saving others.
The private school is funded by out-of-town donors who need tax write-offs and thus have little actual interest in the students.
At the school, she learns about a human trafficking ring and organizes her immortal classmates to put the perpetrator behind bars.
Moore said the school's diverse student body was influenced by her experience teaching children from different backgrounds.
“That's where I tapped my background working with kids,” she said. “You've got all these different histories in front of you.”
Published by Dorrance Publishing, the 158-page book is listed for $15 and is available at the museum or online at http://tinyurl.com/PDN-schooldead.
Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Joe Smillie can be reached at 360-681-2390, ext. 5052, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.