Strange Sweet Song Launch: Now Boarding

Adi Rule’s haunting debut, STRANGE SWEET SONG, is set at Dunhammond Conservatory, a remote boarding school for gifted musicians, where danger lurks in the woods beyond.

We here at EMU’s Debuts did not attend boarding school.  We had to walk two miles uphill in the snow to the school of hard knocks.  But we’ve collected some boarding-school facts, thoughts, and ghosty short stories, and now we know for sure that we still haven’t been to boarding school and have no idea what we’re talking about.



By Parker Peevyhouse

I’ve never attended boarding school, but I had an experience that I imagine to be similar: I’ve lived and worked at a summer camp. Here’s what I think summer camp and boarding school probably do have in common…

Summer camp: We will continue to call it Tuna Surprise even though we’ve had this same delicious surprise every Monday.

Boarding school: We will continue to serve Albacore and Watercress Surprise long after you realize “albacore” just means “tuna from can.”

Here’s what I think boarding school and summer camp probably do NOT have in common…

Summer camp: Water balloons, Parker! Always water balloons. Get on the roof and start chucking those things.

Boarding school: Demerit! Demerit for loud breathing!

But listen, what it comes down is crazy weirdos. If boarding school has as many of those as summer camp does… count me in.


By Laurie Thompson

As a nonfiction writer, I decided to do some research on the topic rather than make something up. As both a reader and as a parent, it was an eye-opening process. Here’s some of what I found out, according to

  • There are more than 300 boarding schools in the United States, most of which are located in the northeast, serving about 36,000 students annually.

  • There are boarding schools for many different types of special interests, including college prep, military discipline and leadership, religious affiliation, single-gender, sports and other extra-curricular activities, and special needs (ADHD or other learning differences) programs, in addition to the traditional “reform” or therapeutic schools for troubled youth. For example, you can go to a school that specializes in equestrian events (and will board your horse, too!), or an all-girls International Baccalaureate (IB) program, or a school specifically for Quakers, or a school that specializes in teaching those with dyslexia.

  • While some boarding schools are rather small (100 students) and others are rather large (1200 students), most boarding schools have between 300-400 students.

  • Most range in price from around $15,000 to over $50,000 per academic year, but most also offer financial aid.

  • Boarding schools act legally in loco parentis, which means they act on the parents’ behalf and are responsible for their students’ well-being 24/7.

  • While most schools allow entrance in 9th grade, it is more typical to attend a boarding school for the 10th through 12th grades.

  • Most do have their fair share of teen angst and social drama.

  • Most do not have homicidal wish-granting felines from space lurking just outside the perimeter.

Who knew?


By Christine Hayes

My first experience living away from home was the year I went off to college. Although it wasn’t boarding school, I still feel like I learned several important lessons that could come in handy in a boarding school setting:

  1. Roomies got your back. A good roommate is always there with hugs and ice cream to get you through the tough times.

  2. There will be drama. From spats over showers and dishes to all-out war over a guy, you can always count on a daily dose of drama. Things would get dull otherwise.

  3. You will reach new heights of silliness. Enough said.

  4. Nutrition? What nutrition? Magical food appearing before our eyes (a la Harry Potter) would have been a welcome perk. A girl can only stand so much macaroni and cheese.

  5. Your decisions may not always be good ones. When you stay up all night, it’s hard to get up for class the next day. Not showing up for class can sometimes affect your grade in a negative way. (Don’t worry, folks. I was not partying. I was reading kidlit and watching infomercials.)


By Penny Parker Klostermann

Script was born to be a writer. He was named after his great grandfather, who had been the poet of poets. So, it made sense that Script should attend Lonely Bear Boarding School where his grandfather taught up until his mysterious death fifteen years ago.

But what about Smokey, the mysterious bear-of-a-professor who had interviewed Script? What of the cave-like appearance of Smokey’s office? What of the honey and berries that sat prominently on the edge of Smokey’s desk? What of his unusually heavy facial hair that was shaggy and unkempt?

It was said that only those who hibernated in the library for long periods of time were able to keep up with the workload assigned in the professor’s classes. Not to mention that the professor’s reputation was steeped in the mystery surrounding Script’s grandfather’s death. Smokey was being tutored by Script’s great grandfather and was the last one to see him alive.

Did that mean that Smokey started the fire that had killed Script’s great grandfather? Or could he be the man-bear that was seen on that fateful night? The man-bear who cried tears over the charred body of the poet after carrying him from the burning building. The man-bear who stood and roared over the body? The man-turned-bear that was seen loping on all fours into the pine forest that surrounded the campus?

As Script walked into Smokey’s classroom he felt hope but also foreboding, feelings that were contradictory and troubling. What could this mean? Would he be the next great writer to come from the classroom of Professor Smokey? Or would he be the next charred victim? All these thoughts were swirling through his mind as he picked up his pencil and munched on the honey-glazed berries.


By Donna Bowman Bratton

I didn’t go to boarding school, but I would have gladly sent my brother.


By Lindsey Lane

They said Wallace Hall at the MacDuffie School for Girls was haunted. They said there was a cold damp spot by the front door where you could feel the ghost. They said that Dr. Wallace died in that very spot waiting for his wife to return from her trip to Amherst to visit her sister. Only she never returned. A freak April snow blizzard blew in during the thirty-mile trip from Springfield. She lost sight of the road and drove off a cliff into the Connecticut River. Her body was never found. Dr. Wallace waited and waited for her to come back. Some say she did come back on the day he died and that once they were together, they never left the house or each other’s side. I’ve stood in that exact cold place by the front door of Wallace Hall. I thought it would feel creepy. And that I would feel scared. But I didn’t. When I stood in that spot, even in the middle of winter when the heaters were blasting in every room in Wallace Hall, I felt a cool breeze. No, it was not a draft. I know drafty winter rooms. This cool air felt like springtime. Like I was standing under a shady tree in the summer. I felt calm in this spot. Like everything was okay.


Giveaway alert: Remember, all week long, just leave a comment below to be entered to win a copy of STRANGE SWEET SONG! Maybe you can even share a boarding school story of your own – truthful or otherwise.



Filed under Celebrations, Launch, Uncategorized

7 responses to “Strange Sweet Song Launch: Now Boarding

  1. Laurie, could you email me your research on those military/discipline boarding schools? I’ve got a middle school boy… 😉

    You guys are having waaaaay too much fun this week! 🙂


  2. These are awesome!!!! Let’s do this around a campfire!!!


  3. Awesomely fun stuff in this post!! Maybe I should send my kids off to boarding school after all! You’ve talked me into it! 😉


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