7th graders at Nativity Prep Academy reached into a carpet bag and pulled out objects – strange objects: a tiny beaded necklace, a bird carved from a knot of wood, an antique pincushion, a collar from an African ethnic group, a stone shaped like a cracked heart. Then they placed the objects on their desks and began to write.
At the beginning of the National Endowment for the Arts Big Read project, sponsored locally by nonprofit Write Out Loud, the class read “The Fairy Handbag,” a story from Kelly Link’s book of dark tales, Pretty Monsters about a magical handbag. Then they began the process of writing their own magical object tales, going through the writing process of brainstorming, writing, critiquing, revising, editing, illustrating before turning the stories and art in to Write Out Loud to be judged by professional writers and artists.
As proudly bilingual students, many 7th graders included both English and Spanish words in their stories, translating dialogue into both languages, and including colorful phrases in Spanish to create mood and authenticity for their characters. Titles such as “The Magic Chancla” could have been completely translated into English, but the chancla is a special kind of sandal with cultural significance, so the inclusion of Spanish words added color and beauty to the story.
While competing against hundreds K-12 students from all over San Diego, two Nativity Prep students were honored for their artwork, and three were honored for their writing skills. Paper cutting art by Kimberly and Andrew were displayed at Skyline Hills Public Library. On April 9, Gilberto, Itzel, and Anthony were honored at a performance by Write Out Loud actors at Old Town Theater in which their stories were read and performed before a live audience.