Saturday, April 18, 2015

8th grade class publishes a novel

A year-long experiment became tangible on Friday. We received the Proof for our 8th grade class novel from CreateSpace. It arrived at about midday so only two of my classes saw it.

Their reactions were charming. Many flipped immediately to the author page to find their name. Some flipped back and forth through the 100 pages to find their sections. One commented it looked so small. Another wanted to know how much we would charge for it.

The most ardent reaction was a boy who joked--maybe he was serious--that he was putting it on his resume: "Yeah, hello, Harvard, I'm a published author...I'll let you know."

And there were some who didn't react at all--perhaps fatigued by the multiple revisions, editorial suggestions, and months of scrutiny and change.

We started in September by reimagining the Verdi opera Don Carlo as a middle grade (MG) story. Looking only at the triangles of relationships in the opera, we asked ourselves what they would translate to into the world of an 8th grade student.

Six major characters emerged in our 99 scene outline--one 250 word scene per student.

Why 250 words? Because of the costs involved with professional editing services. Also, 250 words proved to be just enough to challenge the students. Each scene was a moment. By asking for 250 words about a moment, I put my student writers in a position to dig deeper by considering multiple elements: setting, character, action, dialogue, point of view, etc.

Each student wrote their scene six times--from all six character perspectives.

Then, class by class, students shared their work in small groups and made the decisions about which was the best point of view for each particular scene.

Once we compiled the scenes chronologically, we then rearranged them so that the book would be divided into six sections--one for each character. As a reader moves through our story, each character tells a slightly different version of the same events.

Our novel went through three rounds of professional editing at CreateSpace. Each time, my students were invited to rewrite the suggested changes irrespective of whether it was their initial contribution or not.

Now, almost 8 months after we began the process, our book is on sale at the CreateSpace marketplace today and will go on sale at somewhere towards the end of next week.

All royalties come back to our middle school's Student Council--benefactor of our project--and will continue to forever. It is our goal to at least generate the initial money Student Council invested in our project so that we can repeat the project for many years to come.

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