(Posted Feb. 15, 2016)
By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor
Write a novel in a month? Just for the fun of it?
London Elementary reading specialist Alicia Anthony and fourth-grade teacher Mark Stafford were surprised at how well fourth- and fifth-grade students received the idea.
The inspiration was National Novel Writing Month, an online, non-profit source of encouragement for amateur and professional writers. It’s premise: pursue creativity with a deadline by committing to write a novel, from start to finish, in November.
Anthony saw the concept as a fun way to foster a love of writing in young people, too. She recruited Stafford to help promote the idea. They invited students to voluntarily use their free time to pursue the project. No grades. No assigned topics.
“We told students to put away the inner editor, take the blank page and turn it into something wonderful,” Anthony said.
Initially, 83 students signed up. In the end, 46 completed the challenge, writing a total of 812 pages, an average of nearly 18 pages per student. Anthony and Stafford provided guidance before and after school to any participating student who wanted it.
The resulting storylines were as varied as the students themselves. Fifth-grader Abbey Patterson wrote about a misinformed spy who searched for a rainbow jewel. Fourth-grader Ava Ripley made up a new superhero, “Speedblaster,” whose powers are quickness and fire. Fifth-grader Raighen Combs took inspiration from a recent family vacation to send fictional friends on an adventure of their own.
For his novel, fourth-grader Joshua Lickliter imagined what the offspring of his favorite television show characters would be like. When asked what he got out of participating in the writing project, he said, “Being able to spend free time not on the Internet, like I usually am, and enjoying it.” His response to the question, “Would you do it again?”—an enthusiastic, “Duh!”
Lickliter and other fourth- and fifth-graders will get that second chance in April when Anthony and Stafford repeat the challenge, with a few changes, as Camp NaNoWriMo (short for National Novel Writing Month).