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• Write a feature story based on the notes provided. Follow all the rules for feature stories and use the format we discussed in class (lead, engine, body, ending).
• Make sure your lead is creative and draws the reader into the story. Remember that you have far more freedom with a feature story than you do with a news story.You may editorialize (a little), you may insert yourself into the story (if it makes sense), and your writing style can be more casual and interesting.
• The notes contain more information than you need. You don’t have to use ALL the details, only the ones you think are best. Do not make up any facts or quotes about the main character.
16-year-old Jeff MacLaren was lost in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park near Knoxville, TN, for six days. After he is found and rescued, he agrees to an interview so you can tell his story. He looks a little thin when you meet him, but he seems healthy and happy. He smiles and laughs a lot during your interview. These are the questions you asked, along with his responses.
Question: You were hiking in the woods with a group of teenagers. How did you get lost?
MacLaren: It feels dumb to say it, but I just got tired and sat down for a minute and the rest of the group walked on ahead of me. It only felt like I sat for five minutes, but maybe it was longer. I thought I’d be able to catch up with the others because we were all walking on the same trail, but once I got up again and walked a little while, the trail got really hard to see and I realized I must have walked off it at some point or maybe took a wrong turn even though I didn’t see any turns. Since this was my first time hiking, I had no idea what to do. I looked around at all those trees and vines and bushes and just felt totally clueless.
Question: Oh, this was your first time hiking? You had just joined this group?
MacLaren: Yeah, my family just moved to Knoxville over the summer. I started my junior year at Seymour High School this fall, and I was having a hard time meeting people and making friends so my dad said I should join some school groups. I didn’t want to be stuck inside, so I joined the Seymour Explorers. It’s got 25 members and they do a different outdoor activity every week. Sometimes it’s boating or snorkeling or bike riding, but on the weekend right after I joined, we went hiking. Crazy, right? My first day with the group and something like this happens (laughs). It’s totally nuts. I can hardly believe it myself. It’s just, you know, too crazy to believe.
Question: It is crazy! So, back to the hike. What did you do after you realized you were lost?
MacLaren: Like I said, I know nothing about hiking, so I didn’t know you’re supposed to stay in one place if you get lost. I kept walking and walking, thinking I’d see someone else eventually, but I ended up going further into the woods. By the time I realized how lost I was, the sun was already going down. I felt like an idiot, but I finally started yelling my head off and hoping somebody would hear me, but they didn’t. My cell phone didn’t have any service, either, so I couldn’t call anyone. I remember looking around as it got dark and realizing for the first time that I was totally alone, like I was the only person in the world. It was a really weird feeling.
Question: How did you survive for six days out there? How did you eat and sleep?
MacLaren: Sleeping was actually pretty easy. I walked so much every day that I’d be worn out by nighttime, so I’d just find a soft spot on the ground, lay down, sleep for a few hours, then get up and start walking again. Food was a big problem, though. Since the hike was only supposed to last four hours, all I had with me was a bottle of water and a cheese sandwich. I thought someone would find me right away, so I didn’t even think about rationing it. I ate it the first night, then got hungry again the next day. I walked around looking for berries or anything I could eat, but I didn’t find any. I figured if I got desperate enough I could eat bark or bugs or something, but it never got that bad (laughs). I did find a stream on the second day, though, so at least I had water. And even though I was hungry as hell at first, my stomach got kind of numb after a couple of days and I didn’t really think about food after that.
Question: How did you finally get rescued?
MacLaren: Well, I decided to walk beside the stream because I thought it might lead to a river or a big lake where I could find some people. My phone battery was dead by the second day so I figured the only way to get out of that mess was to walk my way out of it. I walked from sunrise till nighttime every day, just hoping each day would be the one when I finally got back to civilization. That happened on the sixth day. I had been walking for a few hours when I heard voices, and suddenly a group of three guys in sheriff’s uniforms walks out of the woods about 10feet away from me. We stared at each other for a second then one of them says, “Are you the guy we’re looking for? Are you Jeff MacLaren?” I laughed and said yeah, I guess so. Turns out there were over a hundred people looking for me, police and firemen and volunteers, and by the time they found me, I had walked over 40 miles. They said I was the top news story in town, too, so I guess I’m a celebrity now (laughs).
Question: Do you think you’ll ever hike again, or was one time enough for you?
MacLaren: Yeah, maybe I should quit Seymour Explorers and join the chess club or something (laughs). No, I won’t do that. To be honest, I kind of feel like the woods is my second home now. I never felt scared out there. Tired yes, hot yes, and I felt bad because I knew my parents must be worried sick, but I was never afraid. I never saw a bear or any other big animal and I only got rained on once, so the whole thing was like a nice walk that just lasted way too long. Who knows, maybe I’ll hike all the time now. I’ll never worry about getting lost again, because what are the chances of that happening twice? Or maybe I’ll train to be a park ranger and next time I’ll be the one finding the lost kid. You have to get something positive out of situations like this. I can’t just sit around wishing it never happened. That’s pointless. But I don’t know, we’ll see. I’m not sure yet. Maybe…well, yeah, I don’t know, I just have to figure it out.
Question: Your family must be relieved. How did they react when you were rescued?
MacLaren: They were all happy to see me, of course. My mom cried and my two sisters hugged me for about an hour. Even my dad got a little emotional, and he never does that.
Question: It’s been three days since your rescue. What have you done since then?
MacLaren: Really, not much of anything. The doctor said to take it easy, so I’m just resting and trying to get my strength back. Just watching a lot of TV and eating whenever I feel like it. They said I should just lay around and be lazy for the first few days, so I guess that’s what I’ll do.
Question: Okay, thank you very much for your time!