To many writers, the month that comes after October is now called NaNoWriMo or National Novel Writing Month. Last week I posted about the young authors at my elementary school who have decided to take the challenge of completing a novel in November. The ages of our writers ranges from five to eleven.
Wait, did that say FIVE? Kids as young as five years old are going to write a book?
Yep. Of the twenty students in our NaNoWriMo group, there are six kids in Kindergarten and first grade. They are just learning when to capitalize a word and to put periods at the ends of their sentences. They don’t spell very well and the words “main character,” “conflict,” and “plot,” were new to them. So how the heck are they going to write a whole book? I wondered the exact same thing. But my fearless NaNo teaching partner, whom I’ve nicknamed WigMo, assured the doubtful me that it could be done. And she was right!
On November 1st, when the actual book writing began, WigMo and I separated our students. About fourteen of them will be writing their books independently while the youngest will be writing collaboratively. It’s hard to imagine six creative minds – and, boy, these kids have some incredible ideas! – coming together to form a single story. But the last three days have proven that it’s possible.
They are writing the story of Cleopatra, the goddess of work, who is trapped inside a whale with her friend, Phil, the barn owl. We had worked on these characters and settings during our October warm-up and watching the kids put the story together with these elements has been fascinating. The novel unfolds one sentence at a time. For example, in the story, Cleo and Phil were traveling in their teleporter to Australia when they heard a loud clunk sound and their teleporter crashed. As the students dictated, I wrote their words and wondered what was going to happen next.
When I asked how we should begin the scene after the teleporter crash, Milo said, “Cleo and Phil find a note.”
“What does the note say?” I asked.
Theo answered, “It says, ‘I was not here.'”
I scratched my head. “Who wrote the note?” I asked.
Kaatje answered, “Lucy wrote it.” Lucy is the 3000 foot snake that the students created as the villain of the story.
Six pairs of eyes blinked at me as if I was a numb-skull. What was wrong with me that I wan’t understanding the twist in the story? I was fearful of losing their respect, but I had to ask, “Why would Lucy write the note?”
Miranda laughed as if my question were silly. Then she answered, “So Phil and Cleo wouldn’t know it was her fault that the teleporter broke.”
“Now she won’t get in trouble,” Aya added.
Right! Of course! If Lucy tells them she wasn’t there, how could they suspect her? It makes perfectly good sense if you think about it.
So, there you have it. Whether it is good luck, serendipity, or great five- and six-year-old minds thinking alike, the story is coming alive as smoothly as if it were written already.
Next week we’ll check in with our older writers and see what they’ve come up with.