Monday, May 21, 2012

The Top Secret, Super Secret Project

Actually, there was nothing really secret about this project; I just didn't talk about it. Well, I didn't talk about it online, because I didn't know how it was going to turn out. Really, I didn't know how it was going to turn out until last Friday, but that's not really important. At any rate, plenty of people I interact with in the actual, physical world knew all about it.

As I've mentioned, I've been teaching a creative writing class at my younger kids' school. Some of the stories that have come out of the class have been really good. I mean, impressively good. At some point in there, I decided that I should make up a book of their stories for them. At some point right after that, I decided that I should make this book available to other people. Ostensibly, this is just a fundraiser for the school, and it is. Profits from the sale of the physical book will go to the school, making it a fundraiser.

However, it's more than that to me. Some of these kids are really good, my son being one of them. When he won that contest for his story "Into the Trench," it really made an impression on him. No, it wasn't a huge contest, but it was against adults, and he was, in his own laid-back style, elated. It came up a few weeks ago on a walking field trip (because several of the boys in his class were telling me about the books they are now working on (because they've been inspired to write books because I've been reading my book, The House on the Corner, in their class (which is all kinds of cool -- them being inspired, not me reading))), and he really stressed the part about how he won in a contest against adults (and the prize money funded a Lego purchase). All of that to say, I want to make an impression on all of the kids from this class by being able to hand them a book that they wrote.

And, like I said, some of them are really good.

At this point, what I really want to do is talk about the stories I like the most, but I don't want to predispose any of you to any particular story. Instead, I'll talk about my own representation within the pages of
(And, yes, that is the very talented Rusty Webb on cover duty, once again.)
Well, I'll also talk a bit about the structure of the book, but only a bit, because that's all in the book. Almost the first thing we did, though, was do a bunch of 2nd person perspective stories. I figured they should have some familiarity with it, since they gave me blank stares when I asked about it, so I threw them in the water and told them to swim. Okay, actually, I brought them an example I wrote and told them to go to it. My example is in  there along with the stories they wrote for me. That's section one.

The other thing we did that we spent a lot of time on was working on plot. Talking with them about plot and the stages of plot development is what caused the Tib stories to grow into something real. Some of you may remember back to when I was posting those every couple of weeks... Well, I was posting them in relation to working on them for this class as examples of how you develop a plot. Starting with exposition. Yes, I did start there. I don't believe in skipping it just because publishers these days have decided to turn the story arc into a story slide by cutting the exposition and as much of the rising action as possible. We spent a while working on introducing the protagonist, establishing the setting, and introducing the conflict. [And, I have to say, there are some really great examples of exposition in that section (section three) of the book.]

Working on Tib for this class is what has caused it to grow into the book that it's becoming: Shadowspinner. I don't have a release date, yet, but you can read the first five chapters in Charter Shorts. But, really, you shouldn't buy it for my stories (okay, well, you should, but you shouldn't buy it just for my stories), you should buy it to show these kids your support. Let them know how important reading and writing is. Oh, and, well, there's a bonus!

Several of you mentioned after this post about my daughter and how she should, maybe, be a writer. Well, as it turns out, she's quite good (I did already know this). On her STAR test last year, she scored 100% on the writing section. That's fairly uncommon. My younger son, who scored nearly 100% on the entire test, lost points only in the writing section (although, it wasn't very many). Even though she wasn't in the creative writing class (not being in middle school yet), I included a story she wrote this year. Yeah, I get to do that because I'm her dad. Also, I'm the editor of the book, so I still get to do it. Really, though, it's because I just love the story and, especially, hearing her read it. She's super excited to have her story in Charter Shorts and is already hounding me for a copy. heh And I apologize that you guys can't hear her read it, but, maybe, that will change.

So, yeah, here is why you should rush out and buy Charter Shorts:
A. It's another great cover by  the inestimable Rusty Webb!
B. There are a bunch of great stories in it by literary minded middle schoolers.
C. You want to support said literary minded middle schoolers.
  1. You want to support them financially by supporting their school (because, while being a public school, it's not a regular public school in that it's a charter school and much of its funding comes from elsewhere (meaning not from the state of CA)).
  2. You want to support the future writing of said literary minded middle schoolers, because there's nothing better as new writer than other people saying to you, "hey, good job!"
D. There's no telling which of these students could one day be a best selling novelist, and you want to own a copy of their very first work to sell on eBay for megabucks when they do.
E. Oh, yeah, Shadowspinner. Five whole chapters!
F. And, okay, yeah, I have to say it, my son has some stuff in there, and, well, he's just really good. His award winning story is included, and that's not even the best of his of what's included by him.

As per usual, it's available for the Kindle, and it will be available as a physical book as soon as CreateSpace allows me to make it available (and why that's not yet available is a (short) story all by itself that I don't have time to get into). I'd strongly urge the purchase of the physical book, because that's what helps out the school, but, really, anything is good. If you do want a physical copy, it's possible that I might even be able to arrange some autographs. Probably not of all of the kids, but some of them, at least.

[Edit: The physical book is now available through CreateSpace here for the low, low price of just $9.99! Really, it's worth it!]

A few other notes:
1. The link to "The Evil That Men Do" is over there on the side. That's the back story, so to speak, for Tib. It's actually just a story that became the basis for Tib, so it doesn't read like a prologue even though that's kind of what it is.
2. It would be really great if you could stop by Amazon and Goodreads and click on things like the "like" button, especially if you read and liked any of the books.
3. I'll get all the links posted for Charter Shorts as soon as they're available, including getting it added to Goodreads.

Thanks, Everyone! I really do appreciate all of you that stop by to read my ramblings, and I appreciate it even more when you take the time to listen to me plug a project!


  1. That is a really cool thing to do for the kids! Good for you, Andrew. Will it eventually be in the iBookstore? If not, I'll get my wife to download it from Amazon. (She has the account, I don't - I know, odd.) And of course another great cover from Rusty.

  2. This is so cool! Besides being a fundraiser, I think it would be super interesting to see what current middle school kids come up with. I'm not sure what the cost will be (under $20?), but I'd love to nab a hard-copy. Will you do a separate post when the hard-copies become available?

  3. I think that's an awesome idea. Last year my son's English Middle Grade English teacher ( a closet novelist I'm sure) had the kids write stories, and then they sent them off to have them made into physical books with illustrations. Each kid's story was made into an individual book they could keep. Then they had a book launch party in the classroom. The parents were invited, there was food, and some of the braver kids read their stories out loud for everyone. It was a really cool project. A couple of the stories blew me away with how good they were.

  4. Ha! Did I mention the ENGLISH teacher taught ENGLISH. :P

  5. It's so rewarding for students to see their work in print...oh, yeah, like for adults probably, too!
    Great project for a worthy writing!

  6. I teach at a charter school here in Alaska. One of the things I love about it is the opportunity for community members/parents to do what you've done. Sounds like that was an intensive...or did you offer it during regular class period? Such a great experience for you AND those talented kids.

  7. Awesome. I'm off to purchase a copy and then trumpet this to the moon, or, you know, to people who read my blog.

  8. Awesome job Andrew. You are so supportive of other writers, especially the young ones. I'll purchase a copy tonight!

  9. Alex: I still haven't figured out this iBookstore thing since the last time you asked me. Maybe it's because I haven't figured out smashwords? At the moment, though, I have it on the whole KDP thing, so it's only on the Kindle in eformat.

    Ibdiamond: Thanks!

    Jess: Links are up and it's only $9.99!

    L.G.: I think you mentioned that the English teacher had her(?) own English teacher! Very interesting...
    Next year, I may try the whole launch party thing. I'll be planning better next year.

    Donna: Yeah, I think so. I can't wait to see their reactions to having the books in their hands!

    Melodie: It was taught as an elective, which meant one day a week. I did it for 3 of the 4 quarters of school. Next year, it will be all year.

    Elizabeth: Wow! Thanks for posting about it! That was so awesome of you!

    Michael: Well, thank you, Michael! I do try...

  10. That's really cool. I think it's awesome to instill a love of writing very early with children. Too often they think of writing as something awful they have to do - like essays, which no child enjoys - but this shows them the wide world outside of technical writing.

  11. Blog award.

  12. Andrew:

    I can't possibly leave something sarcastic here, or turn this post to be about me the way I usually do. This is a great idea, and I support it 1,000,000%. Check out the Blogathon to see what that means.

    (Okay, I can turn it A LITTLE towards me.)

  13. What a wonderful and worth project! I'll post about this on my link day tomorrow. Very cool of you to do this for these kids. I was in a writing group in Middle School, and how phenomenal it would have been to have an opportunity like this at that time.

  14. S.L.: Yeah, I was really surprised and gratified at the quality I got. I think it's important for kids to be introduced to this kind of thing if for no other reason than it gets them reading.

    Briane: Thanks, Briane! I really appreciate it! I'll make sure to plug your plug!

    Shannon: And thanks to you, too, Shannon!

    I'm kind of having a "wow..." moment at the responses here. Just... wow...

  15. What a brilliant idea! Who knows where this spark of creativeness will take them - even those who don't go on to be an author will never forget the time they made a book :)

    Will it be available on Kindle?

  16. Amanda: This is true! And it is on the Kindle.