Drawing on her long history as an educator, retired Woodstock teacher Caryl Dierksen recently published her second book, a fictional murder mystery about a young English teacher set in the 1970s.
“Teaching Mysteries 201: The Strike” is set in 1972 in Hancock High School, which bears a resemblance to Woodstock High School. Under the threat of a teachers strike, third-year English teacher Andrea Jackson decides to risk her job by participating in the unpopular strike. In the midst of the chaos, a murder takes place.
Many questions arise including whether the death is related to the strike, if Andrea will succeed in clearing a friend who is a suspect and whether her investigations will cause the break-up of a budding romance between herself and an investigating policeman.
The book is a sequel to “Teaching Mysteries 101” and continues following the life of Andrea Jackson. However, Dierksen said the new book is a stand-alone and it’s not necessary to have read the first one to understand the second.
The fictionalized strike Dierksen writes about is loosely based on an actual strike that occurred in the ’70s. She said that many of the characters were based on people she knew.
“People who taught with me at the time have asked how much of this really happened,” she said.
Dierksen taught English at Woodstock High School from 1970 to 1982, followed by seven years at Northwood Middle School. She returned to WHS from ’89 to 2002. After retirement, she found herself writing features for The Woodstock Independent.
“I was always interested in writing,” said Diersken. “I just never had the time.”
Mark Lobo, a former co-worker at The Independent, knew of her desire to write and publish a book, and he suggested she participate in National Novel Writing Month, which gives new writers a program to follow, including how many words to write each day. The idea was that anyone who stuck to the program would end up with a short novel.
Dierksen followed the program and had a rough draft, turning the first novel into a finished book in about a year and a half. The second book, however, didn’t come out for another seven years.
“I got distracted with life,” she said.
Lobo, who originally encouraged her to write her first novel, designed the layout and the covers for both.
“I’m really happy with the results,” said Dierksen. “It’s fun.”
She is considering a third book in the series, but she has yet to come up with a new concept.
“Teaching Mysteries 201: The Strike” will be the topic for the Maples at the Sonatas Book Club in 2018. Dierksen was well received at a book signing recently hosted by Read Between the Lynes where the book can be purchased. The book is sold on Amazon and is available to be checked out at the Woodstock Public Library.