Novel Lab Kids, a non-profit version of Novel Lab’s adult writing workshops, has partnered with the Funhouse to go after grants that will extend its current pilot workshop to more island kids, including at-risk youth, sixth through 12th-grade. Novel Lab Kids is a free, progressive, weekly two-hour writing workshop designed to both increase Orcas Island kids’ understanding of, and passion for English language arts and literature, and improve their writing and communication skills through the vehicles of storytelling and writing a novel, graphic novel or comic book.
“We’re excited about this creative partnership and look forward to how it can help our island kids thrive through creative expression,” said Funhouse Executive Director Maureen Moran.
The current Novel Lab Kids pilot program has been successfully running for 10 months with 11 middle school kids, representing the public middle school, Salmonberry, Orcas Christian School and Spring Street International school. The island offers great dance, performing arts and sports programs, but was missing a writing program for kids. The program, designed to meet that need and help raise the English language arts achievement of kids, is free for kids. Parents are not required to do so, however, in Orcas Island fashion, they show their gratitude with gifts such as homemade bread, fresh eggs from their own coops and gift certificates to island cafes. The Orcas Island School District offers their library as free workshop space to the group on Fridays.
“Novel Lab for me is that one small place in my world where I am completely free and anything and everything is possible,” said participant Kathryn Aspinall.
Novel Lab Kids is led by Ayn and Sam Gailey, co-creators of Novel Lab and critically acclaimed writers and writing coaches. In addition to the two hours per week, they offer a minimum of three hours of optional weekly one-on-one time with the kids who want it, quarterly movie analysis nights and writing prompt excursions throughout the island.
“We now have a growing waitlist. The Funhouse grant would allow us to keep our original pilot group together, add one more workshop for more kids, offer summer programming, plus offer pop-up workshops for those who can’t commit to a weekly,” Sam said.
Added Ayn: “Our dream is to change the literary landscape on Orcas Island by giving kids and adults opportunities to express themselves and help them shine. We’re doing that with our adult Novel Lab workshops and our upcoming partnership with the Orcas Island Lit Festival (www.oilf.org), and we want to continue doing it with our island kids.”
The founders confess that not all kids who participate may end up publishing their own novels one day, but they are willing to bet that their appreciation for literature, improved vocabulary, confidence and reading comprehension, and their college essays are going to outshine many a student because of the years they’ll spend learning in Novel Lab. In addition to teaching storytelling structure and character development, the Gaileys mentor the kids in improving oral communication skills, using Automatic Negative Thoughts Therapy to increase self-esteem, and teach them how to interact and critique work in a scholarly group setting.
“Everyone is so kind, understanding and helpful that I feel like I can share a lot more than I used to before I started Novel Lab,” said participant Isabella Douglas.
If you have information on grant opportunities, contact Maureen Moran at firstname.lastname@example.org.