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Recent Alexandria, Minn., graduate has short story published in popular 'Chicken Soup' series

A short story written by Claire Illies, daughter of Marc and Sara Illies of Brandon, was published in the book Chicken Soup for the Soul Just for Preteens: 101 Stories of Inspiration and Support for Tweens.

Illies, a 2011 graduate of Jefferson High School in Alexandria, wrote the story, entitled "Fried Hair," as a junior for a composition class. Her essay is the first that appears in the book. It is about a teenage girl who realizes that trying to be just like everyone else just to fit in isn't the right thing to do.

Following is an excerpt from her story:

"...I know I wasn't the worst of these girls, but I was just as judgmental and exclusionary as any of them. I knew I needed a change. I started to be more my own person and less like all of them. I stopped pretending to care about all the gossip that went around the lunch table. I stopped going over to girls' houses who I didn't like being around. I started hanging out with people I actually liked. I decided anyone who made me feel bad about myself was not worth a second of my time."

For her submission, Illies received $200 and 10 copies of the book.