MSLIS student publishes new adventure book

Jessica Smith

MSLIS student and author Jessica Smith, who uses the pen name Jessika Fleck, has published a Choose Your Own Adventure novel, Murder at the Old Willow Boarding School. In her latest book, readers (as students in the academy for gifted children) must solve their own murder and stop the killer from striking again.

"The actual idea for Murder at the Old Willow Boarding School simply came from my wanting to write a ghost story and my love for private school settings and murder mysteries," said Smith. "I blended those three concepts and then added some sparkly details. Choose Co. was excited because the concept—a main character being a ghost trying to solve her own murder—was unique to their list and to the Choose Your Own Adventure canon."

Smith started writing fiction when her two children were young, needing a creative outlet that "didn't require extensive set up or clean up." She has since published five novels for middle grade and young adult readers.

When she started her MSLIS studies, Smith was interested in becoming a youth librarian. However, her focus has since shifted to special collections, archives, and museum studies. At the iSchool, she is getting hands-on experience in those areas by working as a graduate hourly at the Oak Street Library Conservation Lab and Spurlock Museum. Smith hopes to continue working in the field when she graduates in December.

"My situation is a bit unique in that I’m fairly established in the Champaign-Urbana area. I have two teenaged kids and my husband is a sociology professor at Eastern Illinois University, so my job search radius is limited," she said. "However, I'm hopeful with the experience I've gained through the iSchool along with the multitude of past work experiences I bring along with me, that I'll find something fulfilling within my field. And I’ll absolutely continue writing."

Learn more about her work at

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