A group of young writers are nearly at the end of their journey of becoming published authors. It may be the end of the trail for their western short story, but it could be the beginning of new opportunities.
Oakdale High School creative writing teacher Chris Perez recently reported that “Sisters of the Old West,” the novella collaboratively written by several of his students was sent to the publisher and the final product will be in their hands by the end of this month or early May.
The short story appears in the Anthology 2013 Young Writers Project published by the Western Writers of America, which also includes stories from three other U.S. schools – two schools from Texas and one in Nebraska.
Oakdale author D.B. Jackson, who is involved with WWA, brought the special opportunity to Perez after seeing a children’s book written by one of Perez’ students, which was part of a multi-class project.
“The Oakdale High School students, under the guidance and direction of Christopher Perez…did a terrific job of collaborating on a novella of approximately 5,000 words in length and they told a good story with good characters,” Jackson said.
He explained that Western Writers of America is an organization of authors, publishers, agents and other industry professionals. He said WWA developed the Young Writers Project to encourage high school and middle school aged students to engage in the writing and publishing experience. Under the guidance of Perez and having Jackson as their mentor, the students “went through all the phases of writing a western-themed story, having it professionally edited and critiqued, rewriting, and ultimately seeing it published.”
“This is a national program and a great distinction for Oakdale High School to be included in the Anthology for 2013,” Jackson said. “Chris Perez took on an enormous challenge and dedicated his personal time to see it through.”
OHS student Katie Schultz spoke of her experience of participating in the project and writing the novella with her peers.
“It was a very difficult process collaborating with a lot of different students, coming up with a plot we could all agree on and feel inspired by,” she said. “…We obviously didn’t agree on everything… We all have different writing styles and different voices and different ideas.”
She said that having it all come together was rewarding but some of the challenge was wanting to have her own voice yet also wanting the story to be smooth and work.
She added that they had a lot of help from Jackson and were awed that he was willing to help them.
“What he offered to us as students was invaluable,” Schultz said, “…all his experience and expertise, and he was so kind.”
She shared that Jackson also showed them a lot about the process of becoming published. He showed the students his manuscripts, his publicity pieces, talked to them about dealing with editors and more. Story-wise, she said, they learned how the writing process is really done from Jackson. They learned how he develops a worthwhile story and gets to know his characters.
“We all hear about how hard it is to be published and to get an agent, get a foot in the door,” Schultz said. “Through this opportunity, we got to achieve that; a taste of what it feels like to be published and have our name on something… It’s something we definitely wouldn’t get to experience without Mr. Jackson and Western Writers of America. It’s been wonderful to share that experience with Mr. Perez and our peers, and our friends.”
She added that one thing that helped a lot is that they had great leadership. Through the effort, she’s realized that being published is something that is attainable.
“I definitely think it’s spurred me to pursue writing more seriously,” Schultz said.
She acknowledged that through the process she’s also learned about what being a writer is really like.
“You’re not just sitting behind a desk and writing all hours of the night,” she said. “It’s meeting with other people, meeting with other writers… there’s more to it. I think I would definitely like to pursue a career in writing.”
Jackson reported that WWA covers all costs for the project and said that ultimately, the students are “officially published authors with an invaluable experience, a published book, and great extra-curricular credits for their college applications or personal use.”
There is a one-time opportunity to purchase the anthology but they must be ordered and paid for by the end of this week. Books are $7 each, including shipping. The anthology is professionally bound, like a paperback book. The books are 5.5-inch by 8-inch, four-color gloss back and front cover.
Jackson reported that the deadline for paid orders for books is 5 p.m. on Friday, April 12. Checks may be made payable to Western Writers Of America. Jackson will collect the checks and must have them and the order quantities in-hand that day. He said that there will be no other order opportunities beyond that, as this is a one-time only printing.
If any local organization wishes to buy a quantity of the books for promotional purposes, the same conditions apply. Jackson pointed out that this is not a fund-raising proposition as far as WWA is concerned and WWA does not benefit further either way. The extra book purchasing offer is intended as a courtesy only.
Checks for the total amount and the quantity of anthologies desired may be sent to Dale Jackson, P.O. Box 1860, Oakdale, CA 95361. Be sure to include contact information. Books will be shipped to OHS.
Perez said he wants to put together a book distribution and signing party for the students in May.
Jackson revealed that in the process of helping his students, Perez wrote his own western short story and submitted it to La Frontera Publishing, who offered him a contract and will publish his story in their Dead Or Alive anthology to be available later this summer. The book will be available in paperback through amazon.com.
Because they are now published authors, Perez and his student authors were invited to be presenters, along with their mentor Jackson, at the Friends of the Oakdale Library’s Author! Author! event on April 17 at the Gladys Lemmons Senior Center from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. The topic is “Creating Western Lore.”