DHS senior overcomes challenges to write book

Zachariah Johnson and his soon to be published book.

Book will be released at Barnes and Noble

Zachariah Johnson has always had a strong imagination to go along with a passion for writing and illustration. Recently, the Destrehan senior put those tools to use and achieved a dream in the process.

Johnson wrote and illustrated a fantasy book for children, Conner the Bird Avenger, that will soon be on the shelves of Barnes and Noble, the tale in the process of being published and released at the end of May. The story is about a 15-year-old boy who lives in the fictional town of Evergreen, and by using his mystical powers and abilities must defend his home from an evil clan of invading ninjas.

“I’ve always enjoyed writing,” Johnson said. “The ideas for it kind of just came to me. I had to research how to write and structure a good story. Then I had to choose a publisher and they worked with me on the process. Over time, it started coming along.”

As many talented writers do, Johnson looked within himself for inspiration and traits reflected in his main character. Johnson is autistic, and he created the character Conner in part as a reflection of his own thoughts and feelings, as well as a means to work through adversity he’s faced.

“What he goes through is one of the reasons he came up with Conner,” said Monica Jackson, Johnson’s proud mother. “Times with him trying to fit in and feeling like no one understands him. It made him feel sad a lot of times. He would always write down how he felt and came up with ways to overcome it the best way he knew how … even if there are different areas he struggles with, this is something he really excels in and has a true talent for.”

Writing and creativity has not been a struggle for the talented student, though. When he learned his hard work was going to be spotlighted and available for others to enjoy, he called it the realization of a dream.

“Since I was in the fifth grade, this is something I’ve wanted,” Johnson said. “I was inspired by watching cartoons growing up and I wanted to tell stories like that.”

Jackson said that inspiration has long fueled her son’s pursuits.

“It’s been a passion of his since he was a small child,” she said. “He’s always had that love of the genre of animation, the action, the stories … he’d write poems and stories of his own about it. When he got older, he started taking it further and his teachers encouraged him.”

She said when he approached her with the idea, she took it seriously because she knew it was something he truly wanted to make happen.

“It was just a written script at first,” she said. “He wrote it in such detail … I read it and it was good, so I told him if he was serious about this, go type it up, commit to it and let’s make it happen. He went to work, got it where it needed to be and sent it off to the publisher.”

Jackson said beyond that, they weren’t sure what the process would entail or how long it would take. And though the news they received was ultimately very good, the process itself was something both truly enjoyed.

“Choreographing illustrations and learning the steps to having work published, I know he enjoyed all of that, and so did I. It was a great learning experience,” Jackson said.

She said that the moment she sees his work on the shelf at the bookstore will be one of incredible pride. But at the same time, she’s already so proud of what he’s done.

“He’s the first published author in our family, it’s amazing,” she said. “To see what he’s accomplished at this point already is so incredible to me. And it proves that no matter what you’re going through in your life, anything is possible.”

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