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The 'Write' Trail - Publishing World Opened To Teen Writers
Published western author and Oakdale resident Dale D.B. Jackson talks to a small group of creative writing students in an OHS classroom about developing characters for their short story. - photo by Dawn M. Henley/The Leader

Creative writing students at Oakdale High School are embarking on a project outside the classroom that will involve them in the real world of publishing.

Western author and Oakdale resident D.B. Jackson and OHS creative writing teacher Chris Perez are teaming up to lead nine students this summer toward being published through a program with Western Writers of America (WWA), a prominent western writers association.

“This is an exclusive opportunity…I couldn’t have asked for this,” Perez said. “A lot of people struggle a long time and never get published. The kids are getting an opportunity to be published…We’re going to jump on it.”

Jackson reported that there are only about a half dozen schools throughout the country that are selected to participate in this young writers project each year. It was through Jackson’s connections with WWA that this was made available to OHS.

Perez’ creative writing class students create children’s stories each year that are also illustrated and bound. Perez said that Jackson reached out to him after seeing one of those children’s stories and presented the WWA opportunity.

“I wanted to do something with Oakdale,” Jackson said. “I thought it was a great distinction.”

Perez said that no one wants to publish students’ work and that to have an association like Western Writers step up, it’s a great opportunity.

He added that writing is hard to do and to have writers stepping outside the boundaries and reaching down the chain to help young people up is really helpful.

“Mr. Jackson had a real passion for wanting to get the kids published,” Perez said. “…It’s so nice to find somebody besides myself who’s so excited about kids writing.”

He added that Jackson has made being published accessible to the students and it’s nice to know there are people who want to help develop the students into the best writers they can be.

“It’s stepping outside of the classroom in a real legitimate way,” Perez noted. “It’s a tremendous opportunity for kids who want to be professional writers.”

The creative writing students are now collaborating on a short story novella and it will be contained in an anthology of works with stories from the handful of other selected schools around the country. The main requirement is that the story must contain the western element, either modern or old west. Jackson said the first draft of the story is due in December and the second is due in February 2013.

The OHS students are in the process of writing their first draft and they’ve selected their protagonist. They’ll continue to build on the characters and plot over the summer, which will be an amalgam of each student’s writing.

“It’s not for a grade…they’re interested in going through the full process,” Perez added.

The story will then go through an editing process by Perez’ classroom students when school starts up again this fall, then more polishing will go into the piece, and then it will be sent off to the professional editor. That editor will make suggestions and the students can choose to use the suggestions or not.

(Editor’s note: This is part of a multi-installment series following the progress of the special publishing project.)