Behind the pen: a look at two of CSUN’s most recent novel writers

Juana Esquivel

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Student author, Leah Bornstein, 20 deaf studies major, released her novel, "Once Upon a Sunrise" earlier this year.

It seems as though writing a novel is on everyone’s bucket list. We all want to tell a story, whether it is the story of our lives or a fictional one.

For CSUN alumna and former professor, Corie Skolnick, it took 35 years to be able to check that off her list.

“I can die happy now because I wrote a book,” Skolnick said.

She said the idea to write “Orfan,” a novel on parent-child relationships, originated when a panel of women from an organization that deals with adoption issues visited her class on “The Psychological Aspect of Parenthood.”

“I really got sucked into the issue,” she said. “I had been working on a book previously and I just decided I was going to try to finish a novel. I decided to change it all around and make it about this.”

Initially, the writing was sporadic, Skolnick said.

“I’d leave it in the closet, then I had two kids, and then I had two jobs,” she said. “Whole years would go by, and I never even looked at it.”

It was not until Skolnick and her husband, who was the chair of the psychology department at CSUN, almost moved to Portland a couple years ago that she devoted every minute she had to write her book.

After plans to move backfired and Skolnick found herself unemployed, her husband told her to take time to write the book.

“It’s the fulfillment of a dream for her, so I’m very happy to be a part of it,” her husband, Paul Skolnick, said. “I hope it becomes a great success.”

Skolnick said she would get up in the morning at 8 a.m. and go to her home office space where she would stay until 9 p.m., without ever taking off her pajamas.

While she is not the first author to come out of the CSUN environment, Skolnick is one of the latest. And she is in good company, along with Leah Bornstein, a current CSUN student who recently published her first novel.

Bornstein, 20, deaf studies major, published “Once Upon a Sunrise,” a novel about three siblings who go on a journey with vampires after they are pulled from their home to live with an aunt.

“I write because it helps me sort through my emotions,” Bornstein said.

Last month, Bornstein had a book signing for her novel in CSUN’s National Center on Deafness, which she said was overwhelming.

Both Bornstein and Skolnick said the biggest challenge in writing and publishing their novels was ending it.

For Bornstein, the ending to the story was crucial because she said the story symbolized her life’s journey, along with what she wants to be.

“When I got the publishing offer, I was only in the middle of my story,” Bornstein said. “I’ve been writing it for five years. It’s basically been my diary. Can you imagine putting an end to your diary?  I had to have the perfect ending, and not just for the readers, but for myself.”

“A lot of people think they’re going to write or start a book, but you need discipline,” Skolnick said.

Bornstein said the best part of writing her novel was that she had someone to talk to.

“Granted it was a blank page and a keyboard, which sounds cheesy, but writing anything I want without being judged just really got me through some of the worst times of my life,” she said.

Besides writing three more novels as sequels to “Once Upon A Sunrise” and then directing the movies, Bornstein said she wants to be an American Sign Language (ASL) teacher.

Skolnick also plans on writing and publishing two more novels, which she said are completely different but could act as sequels.

“I’m 60 years old and this has been a lifelong dream. It’s easy at 60 to say ‘Aw it’s too late.’ I would say don’t give up. It’s never too late,” Skolnick said.

Bornstein said she would advise students who want to write and publish a novel to write for themselves.

“The minute that you stop being true to yourself and start focusing on what other people want, you’re betraying your story,” she said. “Writing is something that you should want to do every minute of everyday. Don’t let anyone turn it into a chore for you.”

Skolnick agreed that writing should be done everyday.

“If you’re dreaming about writing, painting or photography, do it,” she said. “Find a way.”