June 18 2015 WE DID IT!! Our collective novel ZOMBIE ELEMENTARY is finished and printed.
June 11 We’ve nearly finished the novel and are making notes about what’s missing and how it will end! We’re running out of time, so this week we’re meeting three times, instead of once a week as we’ve been doing since April.
Today we also worked on illustrations. Tomorrow is the final approval of the draft, leaving the last week to format, review and put in any last-minute revisions. And send to the printer, review the proof and do the printing! We hope we make it! Our deadline to have the book in hand is June 18, just a couple days before school ends.
May, 22 2015 We’ve been engaged in a delightful collective creative process. It began by combing through all the writing that all the children did in November. We took notes on the themes, elements, characters, plot points and other interesting things about them. We talked about the structure of our novel and everybody wrote scenes or parts of scenes.
The novelists love taking notes on noteboards.
April 17, 2015 We are now in the second phase of our novel project! After a long hiatus for winter break, snow days and many school activities and tests, we got back together and back to work. In April a new team of Novelists, mostly third graders who participated in the original challenge, but with a few new novelists from fourth and fifth grade, began meeting every week after school. We write by hand, and in Google Docs, so everyone can see what each of us is doing. Everyone gets their own little symbol with a special color, so we know who’s writing what.
April 1 We made flyers to invite other students to join the Novelist Team. Soon we were a team of ten novelists, or novelistas, as I fondly call them.
November 30, 2014 Despite the time constraints of November–starting and ending on a weekend this year plus the five day holiday–we did A LOT of writing! I wrote 50, 415 words for the first draft of my novel Rainwood House Burns, and the twenty-six third graders who
joined our writing team together wrote over 30,000 words!
And these were not random words but coherent stories based on the themes we had discussed and chosen. A tremendous effort. For over half the children, English is not their first language, or is not spoken at home, so writing in English was a challenge, but they took it on. (Although it should be noted that writing in their own language is also a very useful thing for literacy and cultural equality, and that it would be useful for children, especially those literate in their own languages, to have that literacy supported at school–opposite of the “English Only” mentality which while not written into law does pervade our schools, despite the extremely high percentage of immigrant students in MD.
In addition, we raised $500 for our project, which this year will be a pilot. Next year we’ll try again and raise more!
November 19, 2014 We’ve been writing away! However, it is conceivable that doing a fundraising campaign at the same time as writing a whole novel draft and shepherding a troupe of third graders through the process of writing a novel, might be a bit much to chew all in the same month. But all it will take is a few decisive contributions to put us back in the game! Or a host of small ones. Any contribution size welcome!
Here’s a picture of some of the novelist team members chatting with the reporter who wrote the article featured below:
November 18, 2014 We’ve had an eventful week of writing! The Novelist Team has well over 10,000 words and many intriguing plot developments. They are planning to go all out for the second half of this month! And I am now at 27,471 words on my draft novel!
A reporter interviewed us and wrote this article for The Gazette newspaper, published today:
Mount Rainier novelist helping students write their own book
Third graders at Thomas Stone aiming for 50,000 words by the end of November
A group of third-graders at Thomas Stone Elementary School in Mount Rainier are hoping to become published authors themselves with the help of a local fiction writer.
Juliana Barnet of Mount Rainier is currently working on a sequel to her social justice mystery novel “Rainwood House Sings,” with the goal of writing 50,000 words in November, which is recognized as National Novel Writing Month.
At the same time, she is also helping a group of third-graders write a companion novel for children.
“They’re really enthusiastic about the project,” said their teacher Jessica Ellis of Mount Rainier. “I’ve been very proud of how much they’ve been producing.”
Ellis said she invited Barnet to speak to her students in September after reading her novel.
“Just having a real-life person in the community come in and speak to the students about what they do, that can be really inspiring,” Ellis said.
Barnet has created a crowd-funding campaign to raise money to develop the students’ work into a finished novel, with the goal of raising $5,000. [Click here to read the whole Gazette article.]
November 11 Here’s a little video update from some of the novelist team members, whom I joined for our second after-school “write-in” yesterday. I cut off the tops of their heads but fortunately not for real. Diego said something really great–that he wanted to make his mom and dad proud by writing a novel, but I kind of lost the sound at that part. Hopefully the video will show their enthusiasm despite my rudimentary cinematography…
November 9 Jes Ellis, the children’s third grade literacy teacher, writes: “The students are so excited! They counted their words today and found a grand total of over 5,000 words! They were writing up storms, more silent and focused on their work than I have yet seen. Several kids who are not ‘in the novelist group’ brought in their own stories, and we agreed as a class that ANY scholar who brings in a story (realistic fiction set in our neighborhood) would be counted towards the novel. They have the goal of each bringing in 1,000 words on Monday. We’ll see how it goes.” I am delighted with their enthusiasm. Other children are eager to contribute illustrations.
As far as my own writing goes, so far, my draft novel is a total of 13,545 words. Plus a lot more words on this campaign! Created a Facebook page and redid my website, with the help of my friend and neighbor Cassandra–eternal gratitude!
In regard to our fundraising campaign, we definitely need to step up our outreach!
November 8 We’re grateful to our first seven contributors, and we’re confidant that now that the election distraction is past, and folks are in need of a good moral pick-me-up, they’ll head over to Indiegogo and share good will, ideas and money to help bring this project to fruition! Remember, no donation is too small!
November 7 I was interviewed by my friend and colleague Ayo Handy-Kendi, who has a weekly radio program on Inner Light Radio. Here is the link: That evening I participated in the cultural gathering of the Riverdale Arts Society, sold a few books, talked with some folks about starting a community writing group, and chatted with someone about using Rainwood House Sings in their book club.
November 5 The children are writing up a storm! Today I got together with them and heard all about their ideas. We haven’t totaled their words yet, but they’ve written a lot, despite multiple distractions! The young writers thought the write-in was “awesome.” They were amazed that the time went by so fast!
As for me, I’ve got nearly 7,900 words of my draft so far, including the ones I wrote in the company of the team during this afternoon’s “write-in.”
I will be participating in a radio interview about the project tomorrow (Thursday the 6th) at 11 a.m. Please tune in to Ayo Handi-Kendi on Inner Light Radio. You can also listen by calling this number: 1-712-432-0900. PIN: 991809#.
November 1, 2014 This November 2014, some of my young neighbors and I are participating in an amazing challenge, writing the entire first draft of TWO NOVELS! I’ll be writing Rainwood House Burns, the second book in the Rainwood House social justice mystery series. And a team of 3rd Grade novelists from Thomas Stone Elementary School will work with me to write a companion novel for children! We’re asking our friends and neighbors to support the project at our Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign so we can develop the children’s draft into a finished book! Check out our Novel Journal to follow our progress. We’re very excited to begin writing!