High school program teaches teens to become authors

All students participated in peer editing of each other’s work, laid out their manuscripts and created a cover image.



Photo credit: Bryan Gagnon

A unique program for budding authors is returning to Beaconsfield High for a second year. The Writer’s Room, taught by author and English teacher Melinda Cochrane, guides Grade 9 students through the process of completing their first novel. Apart from honing their writing skills, students learn how to edit, design, self-publish and sell their book.

Students in the class are taught to structure a plot and create characters, and are given a target word count to complete each month to keep their progress on track. At the end of the year, students can create their book imprint (with their parents’ involvement) and sell them in local bookstores or online, publish just one copy for their own enjoyment, or continue working on their manuscripts.

All students participate in peer editing of each other’s work, lay out their manuscripts using the free CreateSpace online publishing platform, and create a cover image.

Last year, nine students chose to publish several copies of their novels, nine published just one copy, and 18 wanted more time to work on their manuscripts.

“They didn’t all want to publish but they all did produce their manuscripts. By the end of the year, everyone had written something,” Cochrane said. “Some students are already writing their next books.”

On Dec. 2 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., Cochrane and some of last year’s authors will team up for a presentation at Beaconsfield Library, where they will share their stories, sign books, and offer tips for youth who dream of writing a book.

Because the course is only offered to students in grade 9, Cochrane is offering an extracurricular writer’s club at the high school so she can continue mentoring the writers from last year’s class.

A prolific writer, Cochrane has distributed her work through both traditional publishers and self-publishing. She now aims to publish one book per year, but initially it was her students who inspired her to complete her first novel. That book, Desperate Freedom, was released in 2013 and was a finalist for the Writers Federation Youth Literature Award.

“I was teaching a class that really didn’t like writing; they weren’t interested or inspired,” she said. “I wanted to show them that writing is cool and that I actually do it myself.”

For more information on The Writer’s Room course, visit writersroombhs.weebly.com.

For more on Melinda Cochrane’s books, visit melindacochraneinternationalbooks.com.

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