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Zachary Payne

Agent: None
Whittier, California, United States


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Why Columbine
About Me Well, itís really hard to write this, to be completely honest, because it isnít a beautiful, happy story, and a lot of people, especially my family, will be shocked to hear this. But I am nobody, if not somebody that is secretive around others.

Iím an escapist. Give me another world to escape in to, and I will, without thinking about it. When I was 12 or 13, I joined the world of Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings role-playing, mainly on EzBoard. How it dominated my life for years! During these days I was going to school online, which was a euphemism for loitering around my grandmotherís house, watching reruns of E.R., eating myself into a diabetic coma, and sitting in front of the computer, hitting the refresh button, and waiting for replies. I was Professor Miranda McGuire, Professor Karyn Sinistra, Albus Dumbledore, Minerva McGonagall, CŪrdanís, Galadriel, Halbarad, and more. Iíd spend literally 20 hours a day on those websites.

It was my reality. The rest of life was just a minor inconvenience I had to return to.

When I was seventeen, I found another world to escape into. The world of The Lord of the Rings Online (LOTRO), a massively multiplayer online role playing game, where people from all over the world could make a character that could interact with others. I spent hours and hours playing, for about five months. I was Carathrandir, the worst hunter on Nimrodel server. I was Lorria Estelgur, the worst minstrel on Nimrodel server. But I had friends who needed me. Toward the end, my own little group of friends, all of them adults in real life. Whenever they needed a minstrel (which is the healing class of LOTRO), Lorria was there.

I lived on that game. I stopped caring about schoolwork, so I could get on LOTRO. Deeds and epic quests were more important than book reports and history homework. I was lucky that I could get most of my grades that semester up to a decent letter.

It doesnít take a psychologist to figure out why I didnít -- and donít -- fit so well into ďthe real worldĒ. Iíve always been different. Iíve always been fat, big-boned, well-rounded -- whatever you want to call it. I never dressed real well, I wore a lot of sweat pants and old shirts in grade school, and I didnít have very many friend in elementary school -- there was really only one person that I talked to on a regular basis: she was my best friend in the fifth grade, Ariel Richardson. Other than that, I was an outcast. In the sixth grade, things were a lot worse -- I didnít change, but kids did. No Ariel this time, either. I was on my own.

The seventh grade -- my first attempt at it -- was done as a part of an online school. We moved in with my very loving, but strict grandmother, who had recently injured herself. I was supposed to attend all my classes, which were about two or three hours a day. But I didnít. And nobody knew until they got my report card. That year was the hardest year of my life, I think.

Then came the second year of seventh grade. I was scared to go back to a real school, after what happened in the sixth grade. But my grandmother was adamant, so I went to Richard L. Graves Middle School. And it was there that my life changed for the better. I met Carol Weaver, then the Assistant Principal of Student Services, and the mentor of the peer mediation program.

Weaver has the greatest story of how she found me, and she is better at telling it than I am. But she changed my life -- and I definitely canĎt forget Marti, her assistant --. In the seventh grade, I worked a lot in her office, as a peer mediator, helping other students resolve their conflicts. I felt special.

The next year, I was elected president of the class, in --according to Weaver -- a landslide, where the vast majority of the kids voted for me, after I gave a very well-received speech. Weaver gave me the vacant office next to hers, and let me have reign of the computer. It was then that I developed my love of writing poetry. It also taught me a lot of things. I remember a time where I did something really, really wrong, that could have gotten Weaver into trouble (I donít remember what it was), and I was still feeling bad about it -- and she told me something I would never forget -- ďForgive yourself -- Iíve already forgiven you.Ē Perhaps the most important lesson Iíve ever learned. When I published my first book of poetry through a small, online publisher, Weaver was the one that was really excited. She went through her rolodex and called a lot of people, from the Superintendent of the District down, and invited them to a poetry reading in the schoolís new library. And I read several poems -- several dark, twisted, horrid poems, poems that make me cringe when I read them now -- to this group of dignitaries, as well as students. I sold over 100 copies of that book; Superintendent Richard Graves bought several of them, himself.

Without Weaver, Marti, and my G.M.S. support team, high school was hard. No more being number one. I attended California High School, just looking to fit in somewhere among the 3,000 students there -- and I found it in the Puente organization and, even more so, on the newspaper staff.

Two teachers at that school really shaped who I am. Mrs. Lori Davies, my freshman English teacher, has always been supportive, and has always been there for me to talk to. I still remember when I gave her the outline of the novel that I was planning on writing (but have never finished), and she gave it back with ď25 pts. E.C.Ē written on it. Even though I havenít had Mrs. Davies as a teacher since then, Iíve always been welcome in her classroom, for a chat and my birthday cupcake , and sheĎs been the ďofficial Cal-Hi vendorĒ of my books of poetry, taking orders from students and ordering them from the website with her credit card.

The other teacher is Elyse Labry, nee Medlin, my Journalism advisor. Iíve had Mrs. Labry as a teacher for three years, going on four. Weíve been together through approximately 30 published newspapers, three summer school sessions, a lot of very late newspaper editing nights, and all of my emotional upheavals. I know her husband (who she married during my sophomore year) on a first-name basis -- we are family. She has supported me through the tentative stages in my walk with Christ, and has kept me sane when I should be long-lost to the ravages of craziness.

The Changing Point -- Rachel's Challenge But you look at me, and you see a happy, young man, well-dressed with nice hair. I certainly donít look like some kind of nut job, as Iíve thoroughly described above.

The thing to change my lifeÖ to really change my life, to give me a purpose and a goal, to cement my faith in God, to ultimately change who I am, came at the end of my junior year of high school. On March 14, 2008, I had an assembly during 5th period A.P. English. The assembly was called Rachelís Challenge, and the speaker was Mr. Larry Scott.

Mr. Scott was the uncle of Rachel Joy Scott, who was the first student to be killed during the Columbine shootings in 1999. The program is designed for middle and high school students, and presents to them the story of Rachel, her kindness and her unwavering faith in God, even in her last moments.

That assembly planted the seed. I started keeping a journal, first, a battered 1-inch notebook, and now, a thoroughly battered spiral notebook, with a bunch of pages stapled into the front. It wasnít until I read two books about Rachel, one of them an authorís rendition of her journals; the other, a book written by her parents, that I really understood Rachelís message of kindness and hope.

Rachel was a girl with a lot of dreams -- she wanted to be a singer, a missionary, an actress. She wrote poetry, plays, and songs. She played the piano. In my mind, Iíve been a record producer, expert pianist, guitarist, flutist, harpist, and singer. She was a ďqueenĒ , yet a humble servant of Christ. She stood --and stands -- for everything that I want to be: a devoted servant of Christ, a teenager who held to the moral high ground, but still had friends, the person who knew how to have fun without screaming partay. Everything thatís becoming increasingly hard to be in a high school. I really donít think that anybody else has really, really seen how much of an effect itís had on me.

But it has.

After I finish my fifth, and last, book of poetry, I want to write the book that Rachel started, but never finished. A book on how to deal with parents, God, school, peer pressure, and the multitude of things that kids face, but really never understand. Iíve found myself writing pages in my mind, breaking down, for example exactly how I believe in God -- since so many, including myself at a time, think that weíre praying to the clouds and sky above --. I am thinking of taking off a year after high school, before going into college, to speak for the Rachelís Challenge program, if they would allow me.

Interests: Writng poetry, MMORPGs, being opinionated.

Published writer: Yes

Freelance: Yes


Published works:


  • Words Long Unspoken