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Country Day students enjoy ‘novel idea’


Eighth graders KnowEl Willhight, left, and Emily Rigby wrote 24,000-word and 10,000-word novels on their iPads respectively for the class and national project.

The Blade/Andy Morrison
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Writing is hard work, but it has its rewards.

That’s what a group of eighth-grade students at Maumee Valley Country Day School learned during November’s National Novel Writing Month, an annual online creative writing project.

Twenty-nine students in Emily Green’s English class collectively wrote 252,258 words during the month. The idea was to get students in the habit of writing every day, Mrs. Green said.

Having a month dedicated to writing and knowing it was a national event were strong motivators for Emily Rigby, 13, one of her students. Some days, she wrote 500 words.

The writing itself clarified her thought process and gave her confidence, she added.

“I always thought about writing, but I never thought about writing a novel,” she said. “This made me do it.”

By the end of November, she had produced a 10,000-word narrative about a girl obsessed with perfection always falling short of her ideal.

“It’s in the moment you look at yourself in the mirror and pick apart the small flaws, the things you wish you could change. It’s when you spend your night softly crying into your pillow, thinking of all you should be and all that you’re not,” she wrote.

National Novel Writing Month originated with a group of San Francisco writers in 1999. The goal was to help novelists and would-be novelists crank out 50,000 words during the month, which would require an average daily productions of about 1,667 words.

Participants register on the nonprofit National Novel Writing Month (abbreviated as NaNoWriMo) Web site, which keeps a running count of the writers’ production. The nonprofit’s Web site does not contain a phone number, and an email request for an interview received no response.

The Web site said 341,375 people started the event in 2012 “as auto mechanics, out-of-work actors, and middle school English teachers. They walked away novelists.”

Another MVCDS eighth grader, KnowEl Willhight, 13, said she wrote a 24,000-word story, set in the dystopian aftermath of a world war, about a girl and her younger brother’s struggle to survive.

A sample, in which the narrator describes her little brother, goes: “His big blue eyes were innocent, as a baby’s eyes should be. Sometimes I wondered if my eyes had ever been that innocent. My mom never told me where he got those eyes. These were children’s eyes, they hadn’t seen the blemishes in the world yet. They only saw beauty.”

KnowEl said she wrote every day during the month, often curling up in bed under the covers with her iPad and using ear plugs to block distractions. She too found having a month dedicated to writing long fiction was good discipline. “It made me keep going,” she said.

Stephanie Harmon, head of the middle school, said she kept track of the students’ progress by registering with the class on the NaNoWriMo Web site, but she didn’t contribute any words. “I must have dragged down the average by doing so,” she said.

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