Reflection on Project Mentoring Student Authors

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I am wrapping up the project I started a year ago when I approached a small group of science students and asked them if they would like to learn to write a book. Each of them was doing a special research project, so they had ample material to write about. I had just finished my own first book, and I explained to them that I could show them the steps to write and self publish their own books. I ended up with three dedicated students, all of whom have now published their own books. Each is unique, and all are interesting:

Schwartz coverJen Schwartz published On the Right Track: A Student’s Memoir of Research, Advancement, and Holding on to Hope (Click title to buy this book)

Diorio coverJohn Diorio published Broadening the High School Experience:A Student’s Perspective on Independent Exploration (Click title to buy this book)

A Familiar Fin coverAlexandra DiGiacomo published A Familiar Fin (Click title to buy this book)

 

 

This was a pilot project for me, so I am assessing how it went and how to improve it when I do it again. What worked well were the overall plan I used, and getting the student authors to work together. Some things to improve:

  1. The students liked collaborating and sharing their work with one another, but the time was difficult to find to do this often–next time, I will plan more time for mutual editing and reviewing.
  2. The review process, especially around the final copy editing, broke down somewhat, and I had little idea how the students were doing. We needed a day, probably a weekend, when we could have all worked in a room and gone over formatting for publication.
  3. Book marketing, crucial to the success of any author, but especially self published authors, has tapered off with the end of the project. Successful authors will market their books before and especially after publication. Because we ended the project at the end of the school year, we could not easily work together to push marketing after publication. More planning and an agreement on what to do ahead of time would have helped.

Therefore, while the project was successful overall, I have many things I plan to do better next time. I documented our experience and made a step-by-step how to guide for teachers and mentors, Creating Student Authors: How to Mentor Any Student to Be a Self Published Author (click to purchase in paperback or ebook). I would love to hear from other teachers and mentors about your thoughts.

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Celebrating Success – Student Authors Host Book Release Party

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Celebratory Cookies Made This Book Release Party Extra Special

Celebratory Cookies Made This Book Release Party Extra Special

On Sunday, May 17, Jennifer Lee Schwartz and John Diorio celebrated their success at completing a one-year project to write and self-publish a book on their science research experience. They hosted an event at the town library where they invited family and friends, discussed their books, and signed them for people. I attended and joined in congratulating them. For me, as their teacher and mentor through this project, today was a validation that it can work. Jennifer and John are my first two student authors, and they have helped me see what works and what does not in helping students write and self-publish.

Student authors, Jennifer Lee Schwartz and John Diorio, sign copies of their books

Student authors, Jennifer Lee Schwartz and John Diorio, sign copies of their books

My book, Creating Student Authors: How to Mentor Any Student to Be a Self-Published Author, is also just released and available in paperback and ebook. If you would like to duplicate this project with a group of students, this is a great time to start, as it gives the students the summer to do their writing of the first draft. Contact me if you have questions.

My next post will have more about my students’ experiences publishing their books.

Subscribe to this blog at https://bryanholmesstem.wordpress.com to get email updates of my posts with tips you can use in your classroom as I describe how I am mentoring six high school science students to become published authors by June 2015. Also, please give me your feedback, and please share blog posts with other teachers or anyone who may benefit.

One Way to Put the “A” in STEAM – Have Your STEM Students Write a Book

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Creating Student Authors ebook cover

Step-by-step how-to guide for teachers and mentors of student authors

I have been a science and engineering teacher for ten years, and I am always looking for ways to improve my students’ learning experiences. STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) has become a hot topic in education – we need more students majoring in STEM fields, according to many, including President Obama. Many also advocate that a richer STEM education is when Art is added to the list, making it STEAM. So how can a STEM teacher add some sort of art project  to his or her curriculum? Many of us appreciate what art can bring to any classroom, but we don’t want our students’  effort to degrade into an cut-and-paste activity or something similarly simplistic. I piloted a project for the past year, and I think it is one option that can work well and is far from simplistic: Have your students write a book about their STEM experience.

I started the project last May by talking with a few outstanding science students who were each pursuing some sort of independent research. They were at the end of their sophomore year, and I asked them how they would like it if I guided them through the process to write and self-publish a book about their research experience. I had just self-published my first book, so I was familiar with all the steps required to bring a book to publication. They all agreed, and we started. We followed a Project Schedule I laid out. We also followed the steps of an author hoping to traditionally publish, writing to a target audience and going through several phases of editing and revising. We set a goal to publish by this April, and all three of the students that have stayed on the project are close to meeting that goal. The first to publish, Jennifer Lee Schwartz, released her book last week: On the Right Track: A Student’s Memoir of Research, Advancement, and Holding on to Hope. The other two students will be releasing their books soon.

The experience these students have gained by writing their own books is both broad and deep. Over the past year, along with actually writing a book, they have learned how to write a book proposal, work in a writing critique circle, coordinate with beta readers, copy editors, and cover designers, and blog about their book project. They also attended a writers conference, and they set up a booth to explain their project at our state science teachers conference. In the end, these students have learned a deep lesson in how to communicate about STEM. Along the way, I documented our steps and the checklists, templates, and other resources we used. All of this is available in my book: Creating Student Authors: How to Mentor Any Student to Be a Self-Published Author. Let me know if you plan to do this project in your school – I would be happy to help in any way I can.

My next post will be about my students’ experiences publishing their books.

Subscribe to this blog at https://bryanholmesstem.wordpress.com to get email updates of my posts with tips you can use in your classroom as I describe how I am mentoring six high school science students to become published authors by June 2015. Also, please give me your feedback, and please share blog posts with other teachers or anyone who may benefit.

Student Author Successfully Finishes One-Year Project to Publish Her Book

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Schwartz cover

Jennifer Lee Schwartz, student author, self-publishes her first book.

In this blog, I am sharing how I am mentoring a group of high school science students to write and publish a book about their science research experiences by April-June 2015 with the goal of selling 500 copies by the end of the school year.

I have been working with a group of students for one year now on this project. We started with a couple meetings last May. Now I have three students who have stuck with me through the year and are publishing their books. The first student to successfully finish and publish is Jennifer Lee Schwartz. Her book, available now in paperback, and soon in ebook, is On the Right Track: A Student’s Memoir of Research, Advancement, and Holding on to Hope.

Jennifer followed the process I laid out, and she improved on it by finding people who provided copy editing and helped make her book cover. She followed up on contacts we made back in November at the Ridgefield Writers Conference, and they helped her produce a professional quality book. As her mentor, I could not be more impressed.

If you are a teacher who likes to explore new ways to challenge your students, this project is perfect for you – and now is the perfect time to start. Use my Project Schedule to get started. You can access all the templates, checklists, and other materials at my Resources page. To get a complete description and step-by-step instructions, get my book, Creating Student Authors, to use with your students – one copy will be enough to work with a class or group. The paperback has QRCs at the end of each chapter so you or your students can scan them and instantly get the necessary templates and checklists right on your smartphone or tablet. If you prefer the ebook, it has hyperlinks to do the same thing. I would appreciate your feedback on either format. Good luck!

My next post will be more about my students’ experiences publishing their books.

Subscribe to this blog at https://bryanholmesstem.wordpress.com to get email updates of my posts with tips you can use in your classroom as I describe how I am mentoring six high school science students to become published authors by April-June 2015. Also, please give me your feedback, and please share blog posts with other teachers or anyone who may benefit.

The Final Push: Helping Student Authors Prepare to Release Books for Publication

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Student Authors, Jennifer Lee Schwartz and John Diorio, plan book release on May 17th

Student Authors, Jennifer Lee Schwartz and John Diorio, plan book release on May 17th

In this blog, I am sharing how I am mentoring a group of high school science students to write and publish a book about their science research experiences by April-June 2015 with the goal of selling 500 copies by the end of the school year.

I have coordinated with my students to get their books ready for release, so we are in the last stages of preparing them for publication. Simultaneously, we have to market them for release. As self-published authors, we have nobody but ourselves to market our books. My students have blogs and have been posting about their work and their books for the past nine months, so they have done well in building up interest in their books. Now they need to alert their blog followers, their contacts, their family and friends, and their community that their books are about to be available for purchase. Obnoxious sales pitches are not appropriate. Instead, just letting people know the books are available will suffice.

Two of the student authors, Jennifer Lee Schwartz and John Diorio, are planning a joint book release party at our town library on the day the books will be available on Amazon.com:

On the Right Track: A Student’s Memoir of Research, Advancement and Holding on to Hope

by Jennifer Lee Schwartz

Broadening the High School Experience: A Student’s Perspective on Independent Exploration

by John Diorio

Official release party May 17th from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Ridgefield Library

Contact Jennifer Lee Schwartz if you would like to attend.

Jennifer’s memoir about her journey through the Ridgefield High School Science Research Program is filled with emotional anecdotes and new perspectives on innovative cancer research. Jennifer chronicles her struggles and successes, both in the program and in her life, to create a powerful and touching story. John’s book explores the concept of a more open and personalized education system. Creating classes that are centered around independent study projects, will promote exploration and allow students to put their knowledge to use.

The other student author, Alexandra DiGiacomo, will be releasing her children’s book about sharks in June and is working out the details.

My original deadline to these students was to release their books in April. I think April is ideal, as students can do work over spring break and release their books before the final wave of academic tests that hit in May. Nevertheless, these students needed some extra time, and they are releasing their books before the end of the school year. All in all, they have done an outstanding job in completing this project. If you are interested in duplicating this project as a teacher or mentor with your own student authors, I am releasing my book, an easy to follow step-by-step guide to the entire self-publishing process, on April 27, 2015 on Amazon.com:

Creating Student Authors: How to Mentor Anyone to Be a Published Author

by Bryan Holmes

Profits will benefit Ridgefield Public Schools and Newington Public Schools in Connecticut.

My next post will be more about the preparation for publication release.

Subscribe to this blog at https://bryanholmesstem.wordpress.com to get email updates of my posts with tips you can use in your classroom as I describe how I am mentoring six high school science students to become published authors by April-June 2015. Also, please give me your feedback, and please share blog posts with other teachers or anyone who may benefit.

How to Analyze Your Blog – What’s Working and What Isn’t?

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In this blog, I am sharing how I am mentoring a group of high school science students to write and publish a book about their science research experiences by April 2015 with the goal of selling 500 copies by the end of the school year.

Student authors need to blog about their books – well before publication. As independent authors, they need to build their readership through their own marketing. Blogs are a free and relatively easy way to do this. My students have been blogging for a few weeks. Here is a sample of what they have been saying:

John photoJohn Diorio contrasts a required high school curriculum with one that is more open and inspiring in The Curriculum.

Sarah photoSarah Patafio discusses the creative effect of writing in The Indefinite Existence.

Jen photoJen Schwartz provides hope for cancer patients by previewing her book in A Cure for Cancer Is Not My Goal? (Book Preview).

Siqiao photoSiqiao Mu explains how she named her blog that examines the dichotomy of art and science in Why India Yellow?

Alexandra photoAlexandra DiGiacomo shows how sharks are threatened in Shark Threats Special.

 

Wordpress Stats show blog traffic and its sources

WordPress Stats show blog traffic and its sources

As a blogger, I want to know some things about my blog’s readers. How many people are reading my blog? How are they finding out about it? Of the things I am doing, what’s working, and what’s not? The answers to these questions provide data that I can analyze to see if my blogging is effective or not. The way to get this information is from an analytical tool provided by your web service or by Google Analytics. I use WordPress’ “Stats” that are on my “Dashboard” options. These stats are in bar chart format, and by clicking on the bars, I can get more details about each day’s blog readers, including how they found my blog. For example, if I shared my blog post on Twitter, I can see how many people clicked on the link in Twitter and visited my blog. This type of information helps me see how effective sharing my posts is.

Next week, my post will discuss how to coach students to provide high quality content on their blogs.

Subscribe to this blog at https://bryanholmesstem.wordpress.com to get email updates of my posts with weekly tips you can use in your classroom as I describe how I am mentoring six high school science students to become published authors by April 2015. Also, please give me your feedback, and please share blog posts with other teachers or anyone who may benefit.