As the school year closes, my placements in the couple schools I work with are wrapping up. Among the many things I do is work for Writers in the Schools (WITS) Houston. This great organization pairs working writers with local classrooms. Once a week you go in and do a one-hour writing class to help students experience authentic writing practices that are not tied to any specific curriculum or testing needs.
Part of the job includes compiling anthologies at the end of the year of the children’s work. Formatting them can be a grueling process of fighting word to keep the pictures included from moving. Or, sometimes, trying to figure out how to make Scrivener compile in a way that doesn’t add the little scene break icon when you actually don’t need it.
It is fun to work with the kids and to see how they begin to integrate the skills and lessons you’ve taught them into thier writing pieces. One thing that frustrates me is having the selected sample for the anthology be less than a page long, including whatever artwork the student wishes to have go with their piece. If the goal is to get students to write and to write more abundantly, limiting the showcase piece to a single page feels counterproductive.
Since COVID, the anthology compilations have not been hard copies, but rather digital pdf files of the books. This has opened up the possibility of having longer pieces in the book as the page count doesn’t matter as much; no one is going to go broke printing 300 page books for the students. It also means coming up with much more exciting covers.
Before when we did the anthologies, the covers had to be a black and white picture because the book was not going to be printed in color. With the digital book option we can make really beautiful covers for the books… and, by extension, the students’ s artwork will also be scanned in color.
The downside to all this is that the books get longer and harder to compile. Plus, the celebration of its publication lacks the cool element of the kids signing each other’s copies on the pages where their work appears. You know like a real writer giving out autographs.
No matter the method, compiling the work is of course a big chore. As the writer in residence, I serve as the developmental editor and copy editor of the book and do all the work of putting it together. It can be frustrating and tedious. But… it’s also very worthwhile to see the kids faces light up when they open their book and see their writing within its pages.
Well… my friends… having written my post about this awesome part of my life, I must now return to the grind of actually getting this year’s anthologies put together for my students. Wish me luck!