DRAPER — McKenzie Wagner is a big fan of following your dreams and never giving up. She is also a real life example of doing just that.
At 13 years old, McKenzie has already published a standalone book plus a three-book fantasy series for middle grade readers — her Benotripia series featuring young adventurers with unique magical gifts — and is working on another.
The young Draper resident intends to get one of her books on the New York Times best-seller lists and see at least one made into a movie.
For a teen, she has very grown-up ambitions.
McKenzie plans to go to college to get a degree in English, "probably at BYU," she said. She never wants to stop writing.
In the meantime, she speaks at school assemblies and book fairs and takes every opportunity she gets to encourage others to get out there and pursue their dreams.
"The very first time I offered my book, 'The Magic Meadow and the Golden Locket,' to a publisher, I got really lucky and got accepted," McKenzie said in an interview. "I would tell other writers to look for publishers local to you, check out their websites, read their mission guidelines and don't give up."
McKenzie started reading when she was 4. She started writing at age 6. "The Magic Meadow and the Golden Locket" was published when she was 10.
McKenzie, who is the oldest child in her family, attends Draper Park Middle School and basically leads a regular life — except that she's one of the youngest published authors around and she's doing book signings when she's not practicing the piano, dancing some hip-hop or singing and acting in a play.
"I really love inspiring kids, seeing the light in their faces when they think about writing their own stories, getting them published," said McKenzie, who is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. "I tell them it's never too early to start living their dreams."
She also suggests not listening to critics or negative feedback.
"Don't take one person's opinion too seriously. Ask around. Ask a lot of people and then go with the 'majority wins' plan," she said.
Wagner’s first book in the Benotripia trilogy, “The Rescue,” published by Cedar Fort's Sweetwater Books imprint, follows Benotripia's young princess Roseabelle and her friends and their quest to rescue the kidnapped queen, who is Roseabelle’s mother.
In the second volume, "The Stones of Horsh," Roseabelle and friends Astro and Jessicana not only have to outrun the Darvonians, who were responsible for the queen's disappearance, but they also have to outwit new kinds of creatures and dangers as they work to protect the neighboring island kingdom of Metamordia. They have to be courageous and quick-witted to survive.
"Keys to the Dream World," which was released earlier this year, finds Roseabelle tracking down her long-lost father, reuniting with foes and friends from the earlier books and ultimately facing her nemesis, Sheklyth, for a second time.
Roseabelle is determined, smart and resourceful as the circumstances demand she and her friends match their wits and gifts against seemingly insurmountable odds.
The action is pretty non-stop and the adventures are a tad exhausting, but McKenzie keeps up the interest and includes humor along the road.
Followers of McKenzie's fantasy adventure books will recognize Astro, Jessicana, Roseabelle and enemies they've battled in "The Rescue" and "The Stones of Horsh."
The characters, as well as their shadow tumbling, bubble building and camouflaging abilities, are all created from the teen's mind.
Her characters have individual magical abilities, too. Astro can create lightning bolts at will, Jessicana can turn into a parrot and Roseabelle can become a dolphin.
Moonstar, a catlike, fantastical creature, comes along to help, which is a good thing, since they run into storms, creatures that can suck in people through their quicksand-like heads, the deadly Tropjyle with its paralyzing stare and armies that just keep coming.
McKenzie said she gets her ideas from thinking, reading and just letting her mind play.
Designed for readers 7 to 10 years old, there is no sex, no bad language and no violence.
Sharon Haddock is a professional writer with more than 35 years' experience, 17 at the Deseret News. Her personal blog is at sharonhaddock.blogspot.com.