Young Authors' Book Project
For this project we partner with a local classroom and teacher to produce a professional-quality publication over the course of about six months. Students are involved in every step of the process, from writing pieces and sitting on an editorial board, to making critical decisions about the design and layout. Over 30 trained volunteer tutors commit to the project at the onset, which allows the students an important, ongoing connection to the larger community. For 2007's project we collaborated with students from Wallenberg Traditional High School to create an anthology of children's stories written by 17-year-old students, aimed at first-graders, and illustrated by professional artists. To kick off the project we invited children's author/illustrator Lisa Brown and children's librarian Keisa Williams to give a general overview of the children's book genre, highlighting the works that made a dramatic impact in the field, and addressing any recent changes in the canon. We discussed the recent trend of increased diversity in children's literature. The students talked animatedly about what kinds of stories they felt the next generation needed to be told. After the kickoff, students, over the course of six weeks, produced between eight and 12 drafts of children's stories. (Multiple drafts are key, for the process teaches self-editing skills, the need for revision, humility in taking editors' notes and a great work ethic.) Each student-author met with a professional artist to collaborate and create the full-color illustrations that fit into the book. Through these conversations, the major themes became clear to the students and helped them focus on their writing when they shared their vision with the artist.
What we did
Teams of tutors worked weekly with the students, provided individual attention to their writing, cheered them on and guided them through the process. After the tutoring and writing process the students sent in their work to the self-selected student editorial board which made all of the editorial decisions in terms of book title, order of the contents, design, layout, etc. Before submitting to the publisher we had individual meetings with the students, to give them the opportunity to respond to their editors and to get their stamp of approval after the editorial changes.
We received the final product in time to throw a magnificent, elegant party before the end of the school year. We invited the students and their families, all of the professionals that collaborated thought the project, and all the volunteers that were part of the process. The students read the introduction and read pieces from their book. The community event culminated in a book signing by the student-authors. There were incredibly proud.