JENKS, Okla. — As part of a national writing initiative, Jenks students had the opportunity to become novelists.

Alicia Gillean, the gifted coordinator at Jenks West Intermediate, said this initiative is called, "NaNoWriMo," which stands for National Novel Writing Month. 

She said NaNoWriMo was created by adults who were struggling to finish their novels and decided to dedicate the month of November to finishing their books, each book having to be at least 50,000 words. 

The initiative was so successful, they developed a kids version.

The children must complete a fully-written novel, but the word count and time restraint is up to them. Gilliean said her students set their own goal of 8,000 words or more. 

"I work with a lot of kids who are high achievers and they want to to do some amazing things," Gillean said. "So this opportunity lets them have a real audience for their work. It lets them accomplish things that they didn't think they could accomplish. They set hard goals and achieve them and they work towards it, so I just love seeing that for them."

Gillean said the students who wish to participate start the process in October, where they teach them how to pre-write their stories through workshops. She said these workshops cover character development, dialogue and other necessities for a well-written novel. 

In November, they begin to freely write their novels, and intermittently, throughout the month, meet for follow-up workshops. Gillean said, by the end of the month, their rough drafts should be done and the process continues. 

"They spend December editing and revising. In january, I send them off to our local print shop that works with us and they get them bound for us," Gillean said.

"This is the sixth year that we've done this at West Intermediate and it's just grown every year," Gillean said. "The first year, I had eight students finish a novel. This year, 53 [students] finished a novel. So it's a lot of blood, sweat and tears, and it just grows every year. They do awesome."

Alex Austin, a 6th grader at West Intermediate, said he wanted to create a book where he was one of the characters as not many authors put themselves in their own book. 

Another student, Max Michel, said she spent the entire year prior to writing her book researching World War II to be able to write a historical fiction novel. 

Norah Dervish said she created her novel by combining different ideas she had until she decided on a science-fiction novel about alien teens and their planet being invaded by humans.

"I feel like it was therapeutic for me, because I just like writing," said 6th grader Esther Enns, who wrote a fantasy novel, "with a twist."

A celebration congratulating the new authors commenced in February and the novels became library staples other students can check out and read. 

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