Ellen Waddell knew from a young age she wanted to be a writer.

Ellen Waddell knew from a young age she wanted to be a writer.

Last week, she read excerpts from her first book at the Thurber House 2011 Summer Literary Picnic series' "New Voices" event.

"(The book has) real stories of people I saw out in public," Waddell said of her book of essays, titled "She Said, Looking Forward."

Waddell, one of the valedictorians in the New Albany High School class of 2011, said she wrote the book as part of the school's senior seminar graduation requirement. To graduate from NAHS, all seniors must research and complete a project and file paperwork to show how many hours they spent on it.

"I knew I wanted to do something with writing because it's an 80-hour project," she said. "I didn't want to get bored with it and I always wanted to be a writer. But I had never written nonfiction before."

Waddell said her connection with Thurber House honed her fiction skills. In elementary school, she took a fiction and fantasy writing class and later was part of the Thurber House's Young Writers' Studio. According to the Thurber House website, the Young Writers' Studio is for students in ninth to 12th grade. Students work with professional writers to "learn new techniques, explore different genres, receive feedback on their work and have fun in a supportive environment with teens who love to write."

Waddell said she was once shy about sharing her writing, but the feedback she got at the Young Writers' Studio gave her more confidence in her work.

"The positive feedback gave me confidence as a person, too," she said.

Waddell said she also became a docent at the Thurber House, giving tours and talking about Ohio author James Thurber's work.

"It's been priceless," she said of her work at the Thurber House. "It's been the most important thing."

Waddell was one of three writers featured at the New Voices event July 20. The others were Amanda Flower of Akron and Lee Kravitz of Cleveland.

Waddell signed copies of her book after she spoke at the event. She said she has sold several books through the self-publishing website she used, but she is not sure how many, to date.

Waddell will attend Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Md., in the fall to study writing.

"My favorite is still fiction," she said. "I'm a fiction writer at heart."

But Waddell said she also enjoyed her study of nonfiction, which helped her "take time to notice the world around me. Sometimes, people don't take time to do that."

The Thurber House event July 20 also featured a performance by a string quartet of Hilliard Davidson High School students who belong to the ProMusica Chamber Orchestra's student advisory board. The students were Paige Sibeveih (violin), Alina Wungsirivesh (violin), Mary Carson (viola) and Jason Ng (cello).