“My story is about living food in a refrigerator,” said Aiden. “The waffle is the main character and he helps all the other food hide whenever a human opens the door. So the human ends up wondering where the box of waffles went or what happened to the vegetables. It’s fun.”
For one hour each week these budding Tolkiens, J.K. Rowlings and Stephanie Meyers converge on the computer lab at O’Hara Park Middle School and let the creative juices flow.
“These kids come willingly each week to write, edit or share their works in progress with each other,” said Joni Whalin, teacher/advisor of the aptly named Writer’s Club. “I’m just so impressed by them. They are here simply because they want to be.”
The purpose of the club is to allow these students to write, edit and share – if they wish – their work with others who share their passion for writing. Many of the students in Whalin’s class submit poems and short stories to the Young Writers Contest and other youth-oriented writing competitions, although that’s not a requirement of the club.
“Most of these kids are GATE students and they have very full schedules and workloads, so for them to commit to coming here once a week is something,” said Whalin. “There is no way they can complete their writing within the time constraints of our club meetings, so much of their work is done at home. But this gives them at least an hour a week to spend doing what they love. Their dedication is quite incredible.”
As is their confidence. Nathan Reinders is currently working on three novels, two sci-fi adventures and one “kind of mythological story.” Working on three transcripts at one time is no problem for the sixth-grader, as he already has the storylines and endings worked out. “I get bored working on just one book,” said Nathan, “so I like to have a few going at a time.”
Seventh-grader Tyler Zahn is taking it one project at a time, and is currently working on a story about “a kid who has had an abusive, crappy life so he decides to go off and live in the forest,” said Tyler, who added that the weekly writing class is good for him because it forces him to be more disciplined.
Lexie Delarosa agreed. “I like expressing myself, and this class is good for that,” said the seventh-grader, who recently finished a poem about a real-life argument she got into with a friend and how she felt about it. “I have a lot of other distractions at home so this gives me a quiet place to work.”
And while their interests and storylines vary, the one thing these young writers share is an appetite for reading and a love of writing. For them, the joy is all in the process. “It’s not hard for me (writing), it’s just something I like to do,” said sixth-grader Natasha Cocke. “I keep a journal at home and I read a lot, so that helps. And I kind of feel relaxed when I’m writing.”
Since some of the students have considered a career in writing, one of the benefits of participating in the writing contests is learning how to submit work for publication. “I’ve thought about it (a career in writing) before,” said Tyler. “I’m going to see if I can get published first and then see what happens.”
Whalin’s role is that of advisor, mentor and listening post, but there are days, she conceded, when she feels more like the student than teacher: “I leave here every Monday just thrilled and impressed by these students and their willingness and their talent. They’re just a great group of kids.”