BLUE EARTH - Blue Earth Area Middle School has a handful of budding authors with big dreams.
Jasmine Perrine, Maygan Core, Serina Wirth, Sophie Hornbeck and Lindsey Jacobs are all working on their own books as part of LEAP, or Learning Enrichment Achievement Program.
"LEAP is for students who excelled at NWEA (tests) and need more of a challenge," said Jennie Esser, a sixth-grade teacher and LEAP coordinator. "They're doing well in their core classes and need an opportunity to go outside the box."
ASPIRING?AUTHORS — Teacher Jennie Esser, right, talks to a group of middle school girls in the LEAP program, which is for high achievers. The girls are writing and illustrating their own books. From right are Serina Wirth, Lindsey Jacobs, Sophie Hornbeck, Jasmine Perrine (foreground) and Maygan Core.
The kids can tackle extra work in math, novel study, computer technology, and reading and writing.
The writing group began with a simple idea.
"My original thought was to study different genres and practice writing a small example of each," Esser said. "We started off looking at fables with morals. The girls basically fell in love with those types of stories."
That's when the agenda changed.
"The class morphed more into learning how to write a book from start to finish," Esser said. "This is even better than doing bits and pieces. They can see what it takes from start to finish."
The girls are writing a fable geared toward youngsters in first or second grade. They had to brainstorm an idea, write the story, draw illustrations, envision a layout, transfer it all to storyboards and weigh other details.
Although each girl has her own book, they are helping each other by listening to ideas, proofreading plots and offering feedback.
"It works really well with this group of girls because they're all passionate about it," she added.
Boy, are they.
When asked if they want to be authors or work in the publishing field, all the girls raised their hands except Serina, but she is the youngest at just a sixth-grader, so she has time to think about it.
"I want to be who everyone's talking about: 'Have you read the latest Lindsey Jacobs?'" said Lindsey, an eighth-grader who lists her favorite author as Suzanne Collins. "I just want one person to read my manga (Japanese cartoons) and go 'I wish I could write like that."
"If I could have one dream to write, it would be to write something controversial," said Sophie, another eighth-grader who likes reading David Levithan. "No one understands how I can come up with it; very unique."
"I have certain authors [I like]; they're so good that they help inspire me to be a writer," said Maygan, a seventh-grader who likes P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast. "I want to be so good I inspire others."
For now, the girls inspire each other.
"I like brainstorming it together as a group," said Jasmine, an eighth-grader whose favorite author is James Patterson. "I like that we get to read each other's stories and read what other people wrote and it helps us."
"I like being able to write, and ask and get feed back," Maygan said. "It's not to put you down, it's to help you."
That's what LEAP is all about, Esser said.
"It's important to give these students a chance to do something they're passionate about," she said.
Esser hopes the group can finish the stories and get them bound as hardcover books before the school year is out. That is proving tough with all the snow days the kids have had, but the girls have kept at it.
"They have worked on it so hard," Esser said. "I'm very excited to see it come together."
When all finished, the books will be available to be read in the middle school library. Esser would like the girls to read their books to the younger students.