Student writer encourages multilingualism


Nick Unkefer poses in front of novel background.

Carsten Savage


There are only three languages offered at the school: French, Spanish, and Latin. Yet, that did not stop Nick Unkefer from investing himself in the Russian language and creating his own unique, esoteric alphabet.

Nick Unkefer, a senior, has been interested in languages for years. While he began taking French language classes starting in seventh grade, he did not stop there; he soon found himself studying the Russian language and finding inspiration for his writing in Russian literature he read for fun.

“Boris and Arkady Strugatsky wrote Road Side Picnic,” he explained. “And that book has some really interesting ideas that I changed and worked with.”

Unkefer writes in Russian throughout the school, creating Cyrillic characters on white boards in various classes. His teachers are fond of the interesting figures.

“They’re very interesting to look at,” physics teacher Michael Bait disclosed, “and knowing Nick, my guess is they’re very appropriate.”

Jenna Sparks, a history teacher, says that learning the Russian is a significant feat because of the language’s difficulty.

“I think it’s really impressive he taught it to himself,” she said. Sparks has had Unkefer in class for two years and has noticed that he has an interest in Russia’s history as well. She noted that Unkefer has knowledge in more than just English, French, and Russian languages and history up his sleeve, saying that he invented a new language and that “he has showed me the alphabet he created.”

Despite his interest in foreign languages, Unkefer finds himself writing in English “99.99% of the time.” He writes science-fiction, telling tales about what would happen if people were to have certain technologies in their everyday lives. He also likes to create subtlety to his work, including in his work allusions to “the games I play with my friends.”

In addition to video games, Unkefer has another source of inspiration: volunteering at the Granville Public Library. Although he started writing before he began volunteering there, he believes that the experiences he had while volunteering at the library continue to influence the topics about which he writes.

Unkefer has not shown his work to a major publisher yet, but people have noticed that Unkefer has important skills that could make him into an author one day.

“He’s extremely hard-working, detail-oriented and works well in teams,” Bait said.

While he has not been published, Unkefer has sent digital copies to friends.

“My friend down in Georgia sends me drafts of his writing, and we exchange works,” Unkefer said.

Yet, he is still interested in the possibility of getting his work circulated on a greater scale.

“If a major publisher read my thing and said ‘Hey, can we publish this?’” Unkefer confided, “I would say ‘Sure, I’ll pay you to publish this even!’”

To get published by a major publisher, Unkefer knows that it is important to create literature every day to improve his skills and become an experienced writer.

“I usually set a goal for myself each night for how many pages I want to write, and I go for it,” he said.

Still, Unkefer enjoys writing and hopes to continue doing so each day.

“If I can’t,” he joked, “something’s probably really wrong.”