Foran High School class publishes book of short stories
A new anthology of short stories called “Foreign Visions” contains the work of about 25 students from Foran High School.
The paperback book, published by Lulu Publishing Services, contains 17 short stories and accompanying artwork. The stories were penned last school year by students in English Teacher Rick Raucci’s creative writing class, and the art was created by students in Art Teacher Meghan Hudson’s Advanced Drawing/Painting and AP Studio Art classes.
The short story ‘A Love Like Ours’ by Caitlin O’Halloran begins, “The sun shines through the blinds, leaving colorful, shining designs spread out all along the wall like it always does this time of morning.” The accompanying art, by Erin Dillman, is of a young couple wrapped in an American flag and sitting in front of the sea.
Joseph Della Monica’s “The Unexpected Mid-Life Crisis on the Playground” begins with the narrator walking into “the unforgiving land of plastic slides and mountainous fields covered in wood chips.” Alexandra Hammann’s drawing of an elementary school lies on the facing page.
This is Foran High School’s first published book, and Raucci said he couldn’t be prouder of the students who contributed the material and worked tirelessly to see the book published.
Students in his writing class worked over the course of the 2015-2016 school year on various types of writing, spanning a plethora of genres, according to a book description.
Raucci, a 2008 Foran High School graduate who returned to his alma mater to teach after college, 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 publication, Raucci got the okay to move forward with the pilot program, working with 11 high school seniors who were recruited for the first year’s class.
“They were students selected based on their writing ability in the hopes of of creating an authentic authorship experience,” Raucci said.
The class started with students studying 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 wrote three short stories, working with artists from Hudson’s class: In one round the writers had to base their stories on the pieces that the art students supplied them.
The stories were later distributed to a panel of judges to rank, and then the top scoring pieces were selected for publication.
“Everyone got a story published, and there are a couple with two stories,” Raucci said.
Along the way, the student writers honed writing, editing and revising skills. They got experience accepting constructive criticism and putting pride aside when asked to make changes to a project. They also got experience working on a deadline, and they dabbled in sales and marketing.
“They got the full authorship experience,” Raucci said.
For the art students, it was a chance to work as they might on a job site.
“For my student artists, this book is a unique opportunity to bridge classroom learning to real-life learning,” Hudson said. “Student authors and artists paired up for this collaborative effort, which allowed my artists to have the opportunity to work with a ‘client’ rather than making art for themselves.
Hudson said that when another stakeholder's opinions and input are entwined in the creative process, it changes the game for the artist.
“This was an exciting challenge for both the authors and artists,” she added.
Lulu is a self publishing company, but that doesn’t mean the student writers didn’t have to meet tough standards. The publisher sent the manuscript back a number of times, calling for revisions.
The students didn’t balk, though, and they were more than eager to put in extra work the class required. Raucci said some students even came in on weekends to get the completed manuscript to the publisher on time.
The idea was that the class would be self sustaining, so students sold the books for $20. Before the books were even delivered, they’d sold more than 300 copies.
“Not only were we able to replenish the funds, we were able to give away scholarships to students,” Raucci said, noting that three scholarships totalling $1,500 were awarded at the end of last school year.
And there is enough money to publish this year’s books.
The program is still in a pilot stage, this year with 15 students in Raucci’s Advanced Writing Class. Since last year’s class has graduated, this year’s writers have been connected to them via email in case they need advice or feedback.
Principal Max Berkowitz said he looks forward to the continued success of the class.
“Advanced Creative Writing provides students a unique and rigorous experience while allowing them to take ownership over their learning,” Berkowitz said. “The opportunity for our students to become published authors has been an exciting and proud experience for the entire school community.”
The books can be purchased at Amazon.com or at the publisher’s websit, Lulu.com: The price is $8.99 for the electronic version and $21.99 for the paperback. The Barnes & Noble website lists the book at $19.70 for paperback and $5.99 for the Nook book edition.
Paperback copies of “Foreign Visions” arrived at Foranl about two weeks ago. The next book, produced by this year’s writing students and artists, is expected out in June.
“This is huge accomplishment for our students to have published work at this level of their education,” said Hudson. “They are thrilled to see their work in print.”