Students inspired by novel writing

In Jesse Rivera's fact-based novel, three friends, all girls, have to confront real-life issues when one of them develops cancer.

In Tim Learned's fantasy novel, two friends eat strawberries they buy from an old man and develop super powers.

Rivera and Learned are eighth graders in Laura Bradley's writing class at Kenilworth Junior High School. They and their classmates have spent the entire month of November each writing his or her own novel.

To say the students love the class would be an understatement.

"It's very fun," says budding novelist Justin Chapman, who is writing an adventure story about a kid who has been picked on since the third grade and gets his revenge. "It is challenging. You can create your own world. You are in charge. You write it down and it happens."

Bradley writes in her blog, "In 20 years of teaching, I have never seen students this eager to write."

And write is what they do. November is National Novel Writing Month, and 91 students in three Bradley classes spend the entire month writing their novels — no other assignments, no other homework. The students prep for their assignment by discussing the format and structure of novels and will follow in December with the tough part, revising and editing for those troublesome details like grammar and punctuation.

To facilitate and encourage the process, the students use a website called NaMoWriMo that helps with the process in a number of ways. The web site offers each author a page to upload their profile and a profile picture, write a summary and an excerpt from their novel and even upload a picture they would like to use on the cover of their book.

Each student has a predetermined word count for his or her novel and the program keeps track of the student's progress, blasting out congratulations when the word count is achieved.

Bradley says her daughter went through the NaNoWritMo program and, although she acknowledges she was apprehensive about how it would be received by junior high school students, it did offer another avenue to sparking their interest in writing.

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