Monday 23 December 2019

Kids pen 200,000+ words for the Nanowimo challenge

“My mom was so pretty. The darkness of the night took refuge in her skin when the sun was out. Her long eyelashes were like a paintbrush that brought out her dark brown eyes of wisdom. Her lips were brown with a slight pigment of pink and a shine to finish, wich altogether spoke joy. Her nose was long but she never dared to lie. Her jet black curls flowed down her shoulder. Her long fingers of an artist were mostly used for fetching water from wells and washing dishes and clothes even though they were meant for so much more. Her clean face with no scars and bumps was what that caught eyes of people. Her soft skin was extremely elegant and whenever I touched her my hand would slip right off. She had a tall figure that suited her long face and long limbs that some people thought as a flow and some as beauty. The sad part was that her beauty was no use for saving her from a gun the nasty gunshot. The gunshot that stopped her heart from beating.”

These heartrending lines are just a few of the 200,000 words penned by Al Qamar students during Nanowrimo 2019. 

Nanowrimo is a writing challenge to draft an entire novel in just a month.  Students set word goals for their novels and strive the entire month to achieve the goals.  Over 50 Students from Montessori to 7th grade participated this year. 

The precursor to the novel writing challenge was a series of structured classes on creative writing. Using resources provided by Nanowrimo’s Young Writer Program, children learned how to create plots, build settings, portray characters, provide twists and turns in order to write a narrative. They students understood the importance of creating complex character with flaws and insecurities, the need for background research and the criticality of outlining a plot. 

The children’s novels covered myriad genres – from the hot favourite, horror and mystery to adventure, realistic fiction and fantasy. Protagonists scaled mountains, tracked criminals, dealt with loneliness and tragedy. They surmounted obstacles in the shape of villains or unfavourable circumstances. One fascinating novel had the protagonist slowly come to the realisation that she is actually an alien who has been left on earth and adopted as a human baby by a foster family. What is her destiny, she wonders, as she gazes at the night sky.
Interestingly the kids experimented with a variety of characters. For Ishal, her protagonist was a rock who longed for friendship. In Hasna’s fractured fairytale, the traditional villains in old favourite stories offered a defence of their actions.  Shahana’s gripping story has us guessing whether the protagonist is the murderer….. or not? Rayya’s heart-breaking tale discusses racism and oppression while Anam’s fantasy is about defeating a gold statue that creates mayhem.   

The students experimented with different voices – some novels were in 3rd person while others in first.   Safwan handled the transitions with aplomb as the narrative switched between two brothers while in Muhsin’s novel had multiple characters taking over the narrative.

The introductory workshops also dealt with localization of settings to give a voice to kids like themselves. “How many novels have you read with kids with names like yours?” was the leading question. “How many books describe the swaying coconut palms, the feel of beach sand on your face, the smells of vada frying in the streets?” Some of the children took up the challenge and created settings and characters with Indian names and Chennai settings. Asira’s story had a girl from Jupiter come visit Injambakkam and even meet the iconic Sekar Raghavan. Majid’s protagonist jetsetted between Oman and Chennai and even visiting T. Nagar while Hamza’s Salman is a beggar boy in Mumbai.

The school held a pizza party to celebrate the winner’s achievements at the end of Nanowrimo. There was an Author Reading at the party where kids read out extracts from their novels – much like a real event.  Several children have expressed an interest in the critical component of writing – revising and editing – the hard, gut wrenching work which must be done.  Extracts from the revised works will InshaAllah be collated and published as an anthology.  

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