Young authors and illustrators held copies of their new books at the fine arts center in downtown Milford May 15 as they sampled hors d’oeuvres and chatted about the writing process and techniques used in photography.
The event marked the launch for “Times Like This” and “Minds Unmasked,” two books of short stories published by Foran High School students.
Teacher Rick Raucci’s advanced creative writing classes and Meghan Hudson’s advanced photography classes teamed up to create the books, published by Lulu Publishing Services, each of which contains about 230 pages of short stories and accompanying photography.
Raucci, a 2008 Foran High School graduate who returned to his alma mater to teach after college, several years ago pitched the idea of an advanced writing class that would produce a book of short stories. With a grant secured to cover the cost of the first publication, Raucci got the OK to move forward with what was in 2016 a pilot program.
Now in its fourth year at Foran, the program has been self-sustaining since that first year. Book sales pay for the next year’s publications, as last year’s sales provided about $4,000 to publish and print this year’s 600 books. This year’s books, which will sell for $20 on Amazon starting June 1, will pay for next year’s books.
The program proved so popular that a similar class is run at Jonathan Law High School. Law Principal Fran Thompson said a book launch is planned there soon.
Students in Raucci’s classes worked over the course of the school year on various types of writing before beginning to compile their class culminating tomes. They studied writing technique: settings, dialogue, plot.
“Even the smallest of details can change the story,” Raucci said. “And dialogue, how does age, for example, affect how a person will speak?”
The students worked with artists from Hudson’s class, who read the stories and then brainstormed accompanying photography.
“My artists had to work within the author’s parameters,” Hudson said, adding that there was dialogue back and forth as there would be on a professional job. She called it “real world experience.”
Raucci’s students raved about the class.
“I absolutely adore this class,” said Ana O’Connor. “It was so different than other English classes.”
Lucia Mikan said she and her fellow students went into the classroom really wanting to tackle their writing, not feeling like they were just completing an assignment because someone told them to.
Ryan Farrell agreed. He wrote a short story about a jazz musician. “I’m a jazz musician,” he said, “and this is about a possible future I might see for myself.”
Abby Richards wrote a story about a leaf and how it parallels human life. Because of the class she is now considering a career in journalism.
The class awakened a passion for writing in other students, too.
Maggie Treichel said her daughter, Julia, didn’t realize she had a knack for writing until she took Raucci’s class.
“This really developed pride in her writing,” Treichel said, noting that her children lean more toward science and math academically.
“I’ve never seen so much involvement between parents, teachers and students,” Treichel added.
Nolan Bannon used a science-based theme in his short story, “Walk in Her Genes,” about a French girl studying biology in graduate school, adding that he struggled with several topics before settling on one that would work with his theme.
The authors will go to Book Con at the Jacob Javits Convention Center in New York in June, where they will exhibit, market and sell their books, and get a chance to hobnob with some celebrities.
Foran Principal Max Berkowitz praised the class and said he intends to see it continue at Foran.
“To have students become published authors is just a tremendous experience,” Berkowitz said.