Last week, our elementary school where my two daughters attend, hosted an Arts and Literacy Night. Part of the event was a Young Authors Program. An opportunity for all students, Kindergarten through Sixth grade to write and illustrate their very own books. Out of 425 students, 341 participated in this program, and I was the coordinator who led this incredible initiative.
It has taken the last three months of preparation and organization to get this program off the ground. I’ve had the backing of the Principal, and wonderful support of all seventeen teachers in the school. Most importantly, it was the children’s enthusiasm that truly made this a fantastic experience, not just for me, but for everyone involved.
As a published author and voracious reader, this program was near and dear to my heart when I was asked by our PTA committee, to run it. There was no doubt in my mind that I wanted this project to happen.
During the pre-launch, I felt it was important to encourage the kids and get them excited, so I made it my priority to visit each and every classroom and share with the students how I became a writer. It all started in elementary school when I first read the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys books. From there, I took a try at poetry writing. In high school, I discovered Danielle Steel and immersed myself with all her novels. My poems became longer, and more complex, and suddenly, I was writing short stories. I did this for a while, until I started writing a very “long” short story, which finally became my first published novel. It only took nine years to write a novel, which included tons of editing and re-editing, three title changes, and twenty-seven versions of the same story. I’ve kept all my hardcopy versions too—in an extra-large plastic bin. Yep, the kids got a kick out of that one. Poor trees.
Blank booklets were ordered and I distributed them to the classrooms. In the meantime, the students began writing a rough draft of their stories with the teachers overseeing the task. I checked on all the classes two weeks later, some students had already finished and were transferring their content over to the booklets, and some hadn’t even started. I talked to the kids about procrastination and distraction when it came to writing. No one person is immune to that, one just needs to sit their butt down and well, just do it.
A couple of weeks later, the students saw me again in the hallways. I was starting to become a recognizable face. This time, I picked up all the completed booklets from the teachers.
From there with the help of a couple other moms, we organized the booklets by teacher/grade, and utilized one mother’s graphic artist talent for a poster and communication flyer to the families regarding the Arts and Literacy Night with the Young Authors Program.
Throughout the process, I communicated regularly with the teachers via email on next steps and expectations.
I distributed Certificates of Completions and Excellence stickers to the teachers. Then, it was the day of the event—organizing the booklets on tables for display. The families and students got a chance to view and flip through all the beautifully created books. It was a sight to see. The families were pleasantly surprised and the children were very proud of their efforts.
And, when it was over, I picked up all the books, reorganized them again, and then the following day, passed them back to the students in the classrooms.
It was a team effort all the way the around. I’m grateful for the support of the school. And, I’ve just learned through the grapevine my new name is “Mrs. YAP”, short for “Mrs. Young Authors Program”.
As a writer, we get consumed in our daily writings that we forget to share those gems of experiences to others who are just as enthusiastic about the written word, as you might be. Community involvement is not as difficult as one would expect. All you need is a little bit of creativity and a desire to pay it forward. After all, who knows where our next best seller will come from?
Until next time…
Be well. Be safe. Be happy.
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