I’ve been noticing #thebestpartofmyday on Twitter lately. Sometimes they’re snippits, and occasionally video clips. It feels like such a positive lens through which to see a day. It reminded me of Slice of Life since both have me on the lookout for notable moments. Today I decided to combine the two.
Their eyes widened and her smile, especially, was wide.
“Is that my cover?!”
“Wow, Elaina, it looks great!” her friends chimed in.
She reached out for the newly laminated copies of the cover reverently.
“All you need now is to print the main text. We’ll copy it and trim it to size.”
We founded the Real Writers Publishing Company last year at PES. As a school whose literacy program is aligned with reading and writing workshop, we believe that our children are not just preparing for exams or practicing for high school, but that they are real writers, right now.
What says, “I’m a writer!” more than writing a book that other people can actually read?
That’s what we thought, too.
So three times a year we’ve been putting out a call for submissions to all our writers*. Anyone who wants can submit a book and we select what we hope are a manageable number to publish. The end result for each of our authors is an actual book on the library shelves with a call number and a bar code. Anyone in the school can check these books out and bring them home like any other library book. We have a dedicated set of shelves for our PES Authors.
Last year we published about 17 at a time. It took us weeks of lunch sessions to work through revision. Books sometimes didn’t make it to the library shelves for a month or more. This year we’ve opted to scale back slightly. However, for each round of submissions, we host a publishing workshop as a day-long in-school field-trip culminating in all but completed books. Yesterday was one of those workshops.
We invited the authors to join us for a writerly day:
9:45-10-15 Peer review and feedback from fellow authors
10:15-10:45 Working snack and personal planning
10:45-12:00 Revisions based on personal plans
12:00-12:30 Author luncheon, book talks, camaraderie
12:30-2:00 Editing, Creation of covers, dedication pages, about the author pages, tables of contents, and special features
This time around we had seven authors. Five of them have published with Real Writers Publishing before, including one of our second graders. We had two sets of co-authors inspired by a visit last year from co-authors Stephanie Robinson and Jessica Haight who described collaborating on The Secret Files of Fairday Morrow via Google docs…a platform our students routinely use.
Lest you think these are mini stories, two of the books this time will be more than 50 pages long. We’ve had to wrestle with how many of those books we can reasonably and effectively shepherd through at any one time. To be ready to publish after a single day workshop, means the books have to be pretty far along already.
For those authors who submitted, but whose books won’t make it to our shelves this time around, we met to thank, cheer, and encourage them to keep writing. We explained how real writers, like them, often wrote and rewrote, submitted and resubmitted a story before it was ready to publish. I’ll follow up with them one more time before summer to be sure they’re still writing and that they have a plan to write over the summer. As an added incentive, we’ll aim to have our first round of submissions shortly after we return from summer.
Given that I believe all our children are writers, I wrestle with only being able to publish some of the submissions. We’re constantly reviewing and revising the plans. Maybe next year we’ll have another small round of publishing. Maybe we’ll have rolling submissions so writers don’t cram their writing into the couple weeks before a deadline. Perhaps we’ll host writing clubs twice a month to nurture the writers and their projects along the way.
We’ve also considered involving our art teacher and some of her art students in designing covers or illustrations for some of the books. We still need to work out the timing so that our publishing windows would align with her art enrichment or ELT (extended learning time) groups.
Maybe one day we’ll recruit “employees” to our publishing house. Perhaps some writers would be great editors, giving expert advice on possible revisions. Others could be great copy editors or designers. Maybe they’ll be the writing equivalent of our Reading Ambassadors.
In all the projects I imagine for our students, I always hope that mine will be the spark of an idea, but that the students will make the heart of it their own.
If the result of the idea is a smile like the one I saw yesterday when Elaina beheld her new cover, then that’s the best part of my year.
(*Caveat: we only invited our kindergarteners in the spring round.)