Grade 6 students at R.I. Baker now published authors

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    Special event launches “A Jumble of Words,” an anthology of their work

    Students in McKenna Golding’s Grade 6 Language Arts class at R.I. Baker Middle School are published authors, with a book of their writing soon to be found in the school library.

    “A Jumble of Words: An Anthology of Grade 6 Writing” features work selected by the students themselves, following weeks of writing and editing.

    Not only are the words by students, but the font of each story, poem, letter or journal entry was left to the students’ creativity. A team of students worked on the cover design and inside pages, including a dedication to Canadian author Susin Nielsen and the school’s Language Arts teachers.

    The result is an often deeply personal reflection of student thinking on everything from bullying to the loss of a loved one.

    Golding says the idea for the book came after consulting with former R.I. Baker vice-principal Lindsey Hagen. Searching for a way to make the writing experience authentic and engaging, the teachers proposed a self-published book.

    The project wasn’t a contest for the best writers which would have deterred some doubting students. Instead, it was clear from the outset that “everybody’s in,” Golding says. The result was excitement and a willingness to write and edit to make the individual work the best it could be.

    Nielsen, author of “Word Nerd” and “We are All Made of Molecules,” provided more inspiration during a Skype chat with students about the writing process.

    At a book launch June 22, 2017, all Grade 6 students were treated to readings from the book. The authors autographed a poster of the cover and picked up their own copies, along with slices of celebratory cake.

    The cover features an old-fashioned typewriter. Student Teagan Skretting says she suggested the antiquated writing device after having seen them in movies and in the Coaldale museum.

    “The old typewriter looked cooler than a computer,” she says. “I think it turned out really good.”

    Her entry to the book was a fictional narrative about a student being bullied.

    Ethan Hoult and Jamie Tolley both wrote short stories about a fellow who lost his wallet, a scenario they dreamed up together. Through the writing process, they took the idea in different directions, with Hoult setting his story, “The Mall Run,” at a shopping centre. Tolley’s story, “The Disappearance,” is set in a restaurant.

    “He has a bet with the waiter that if he doesn’t find his wallet and pay for his lunch, he’ll have to do the dishes,” Tolley says.

    Through the writing process, the friends worked together, reading each other’s work and offering feedback.

    “It’s all original,” Hoult says. “The process was kind of fun. . . I’m proud to be in a book.”

    The writing project was especially meaningful to student Sandra Froese, whose writing journal became a diary about the painful process of losing her grandfather to cancer.

    What started as a short story has now grown into four chapters of a novel about her grandfather and the inspiration he provided.

    “I talked to my mom about how writing about him helped me,” she says.

    While she was initially worried her words would be painful to read, Mom’s reaction was positive.

    “She thought they were very good. She was proud I could write about this and it would help me feel better.”

    Her mom convinced her to expand the story as a way to share her grandfather’s legacy with her cousins who are too young to have really known him. The power of writing has led Froese to realize “I may want to be a writer.”

    “My grandpa always said I could do anything I put my hard work into.”

    Once completed — she knows what the book’s last two sentences will be but still has much more to write — she hopes to be able to share her novel with Nielson to get the author’s input.

    The book was published through lulu.com, a self-publishing site that was able to produce the books for about $5 each.

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