Foreign Visions, a new anthology, features short stories and artwork from 25 students at Foran High School. The paperback book, published using the free online publishing tools at Lulu.com, contains 17 short stories and accompanying artwork. The stories are by students in Rick Raucci’s Creative Writing class. The artwork was created by students in Meghan Hudson’s Advanced Drawing/Painting and AP Studio Art classes.
Foreign Visions is Foran High School’s first published book and Raucci said he couldn’t be prouder of the students who contributed the material and worked tirelessly to publish the book. Students in his creative writing class worked throughout the 2015-16 school year on various types of writing spanning multiple genres.
Raucci pitched the idea of an advanced writing class that would produce a book of short stories. With a grant secured to cover initial costs, Raucci got approval to move forward with the pilot program, working with 11 high school seniors who were recruited for the first year’s class.
“They were students selected based on their writing ability in the hopes of creating an authentic authorship experience,” Raucci said. The class began with students studying the importance of writing techniques such as setting, dialogue and plot development. “Even the smallest of details can change the story,” Raucci said. “How does age, for example, affect how a person will speak?”
Each student wrote three short stories, working with artists from Hudson’s class: In one round the writers had to write a story based on artwork supplied by the illustrators. The stories were then distributed to a panel of judges to rank. The top-scoring pieces were selected for publication. “Everyone got a story published and there are a few students with two stories,” Raucci said.
As part of this project, students honed writing, editing and revising skills. They also got a taste of professional life by working on a deadline, receiving constructive criticism and incorporating recommended changes to their project.
“They got the full authorship experience,” Raucci said.
For the art students, it was a chance to work as they might on a job.“For my student artists, this book is a unique opportunity to bridge classroom learning to real-life learning,” Hudson said. “Student authors and artists paired up for this collaborative effort, which allowed my artists to work with a ‘client’ rather than making art for themselves.
Hudson said that when another stakeholder’s opinions and input are entwined in the creative process, it changes the game for the artist. “This was an exciting challenge for both the authors and artists,” she added.
Lulu is a self-publishing company, but that doesn’t mean the student writers didn’t have to meet tough standards. The manuscript required several revisions to meet distribution requirements, but students didn’t balk. They were eager to put in the extra work with some students even working weekends to get the completed manuscript revised in time.
The original idea was that the class would be self-sustaining. Students developed a marking plan to sell the books for $20. Before the first shipment of books was even delivered, students had sold more than 300 copies. “Not only were we able to replenish the grant funds, but we were also able to give away scholarships to students,” Raucci said, noting that three $500 scholarships were awarded at the end of the school year.
More writing to come
Principal Max Berkowitz said he looks forward to the continued success of the class. “Advanced Creative Writing provides students a unique and rigorous experience while allowing them to take ownership over their learning,” Berkowitz said. “The opportunity for our students to become published authors has been an exciting and proud experience for the entire school community.”
“This is a huge accomplishment for our students to have published work at this level of their education,” said Hudson. “They are thrilled to see their work in print.”