More than a writing class: These students become published authors

A group of students at Jonathan Law and Foran High School will be publishing an anthology of short stories this year, much like the books published at Foran High School during the last two school years.

The books will be the culmination of the creative writing classes at each school.

Last school year Foran High School writers published a book called “Through Different Eyes.” It starts with a moving short story by Kristina Lazdauskas called La Fabrica, about a young mother toiling as a laborer in the fabric industry.

“They burned,” the story begins. “My eyes, red and puffy, stung as a chemical tear ran down my cheek. Reaching up my arms in an attempt to wipe away the powdery film that had accumulated, I felt the sweat from my skin exacerbate the pain.”

The book contains stories from 15 young authors, along with work by students from advanced art and photography classes, many of them freshmen in college this year.

Foran published its first book of short stories called “Foreign Visions” in 2016, featuring the work of about 25 students.

English Teacher Rick Raucci pitched the idea of an advanced writing class that would produce a book of short stories several years ago. With a grant secured to cover the cost of the first publication, Raucci got the okay to move forward with the pilot program two years ago.

The idea behind the program is that it is self-sustaining. The class got a grant last school year to pay for meeting with marketing agents to learn the ins and outs of marketing a book, but the cost of publishing that second book came from the sale of the first year’s books.

And sales from last year’s book will pay for this year’s books. Publication costs are about $1,500.  

Last year’s Foran students attended a book convention at the Jacob Javits Convention Center in New York at the end of the school year — Book Con — where professional publishing houses and people that write for a living exhibit their books. The student authors exhibited their work and put their books up for sale, pitching them to the public at the convention.

“A lot of the feedback that we received was very positive,” Raucci said. “We just about sold out of the inventory that we took with us to the convention and a number of teachers and librarians from all across the country were so intrigued by the project that they placed orders with us for class sets so that they could use it in their own schools.”

The program has gotten lots of support from school administrators, including Principal Max Berkowitz, Raucci said. And Jonathan Law Principal Fran Thompson is excited to be offering it at Law this year.

“The final publication is an exciting opportunity for our incredibly talented student authors to have their work published,” Thompson said, adding that Law also publishes a literary magazine. “Real world experiences like these make Milford such an incredible place for students to explore their areas of interest and grow their passions into a tangible product for all to enjoy.”

Kristina Lazdauskas, this year a freshman at Fordham University, said she that when she took Raucci’s class her senior year at Foran she learned how to create a well-rounded story, one that included a balance of characters, details, dialogue and conflict.

“Before taking this class, I was unsure of how to really make a complete story, and I would often write fragments of one without really understanding how to tie it all together,” Lazdauskas said. “Now, I feel that I have learned the skills to be able to. Through our workshops, where we would annotate and then discuss our stories out loud as a class, I also better learned how to take criticisms and suggestions.”

Juliana Tuozzola, now at Suffolk University, said, “This course gave me such a distinct educational experience, one that I have never had before. I grew through this class not only as a writer, but also as a person. We learned the logistics of crafting a short story, while also learning how to open our minds to creativity — letting our passions, perspectives and life experiences inspire us and our writing. Through workshop sessions, our individual thoughts and ideas bounced off of one another and we truly had those ah-ha moments where amazing ideas came from our minds collaborating.”

And Casey Glennon, now attending Southern Connecticut State University, said, “I really loved taking [the] class because it helped me grow not only as a writer, but as a person too. I was able to push out of that comfort zone I had established simply by having the freedom to write. Overall, it was a really fun experience to have and if I could do it again, I would, without a doubt.”

For the art students, it was a chance to work as they might on a job site.

The books were published by Lulu Publishing Services and can be purchased for $20.99 through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Lulu.