Creating Future Authors
There’s a lot to be said about a program that is designed to help young authors bring their vision and creativity to life. In today’s world of school budget cuts and “teaching to the test,” programs like Canon Solutions America’s Future Authors Project have given students who love to write a unique chance to flourish.
Now going on its 10th year, the Future Authors Project—a public/private partnership between Canon Solutions America (the former Océ North America) and the School District of Palm Beach County, Florida—has provided instruction and guidance to more than 400 students. The idea for the project was sparked between Ellen Schulman, a consultant, and Sheryl Pattek, the former director of marketing at Océ North America, Production Print Solutions—who were looking for a way that the company could give back to the community through education.
“I reached out to the School District of Palm Beach County and connected with Mary Wilson who, at that time, was the head of language arts programming,” Schulman recalls. “She shared her dream with me of offering a summer writing workshop geared toward middle and high school students. The idea was born and we shaped the program to be a writing workshop, as well as a chance to learn about the publishing industry and becoming a professional author.”
Schulman adds that, since students rarely have the opportunity during the school year to experience pure creative writing classes and receive extensive coaching on their efforts, the creation of the Future Authors Project provided the perfect platform.
Eight-day Summer Program
The program started out at a local Barnes & Noble, and then moved to two locations: Don Estridge Middle School in Boca Raton and Glades Central High School in Belle Glade, where the workshops are still held. Throughout the free eight-day summer program, certified teachers, published authors, previous participants and Canon Solutions America experts teach the students how to write in various genres and the steps involved in the publishing process.
The Lawrence Sanders Foundation provides the funding to support the certified language arts teachers who lead the workshop, and Canon Solutions America provides all of the funding for the book creation and printing, as well as staff support, marketing/public relations and office supplies.
Today, Schulman works closely with Diana Fedderman, of the School District of Palm Beach County, who has been involved with the project for eight years; and Eric Hawkinson, director of marketing, Production Print Solutions, at Canon Solutions America.
“This is one of the most exciting projects that I work with each year,” says Fedderman. “It is truly inspiring to see the students’ dedication to learning, and watch the level of passion they put into becoming writers.”
What the participants love most about the workshops, she adds, is the one-on-one instruction they receive, as well as meeting other students who share their passion for writing.
According to Fedderman, more than 200 applicants applied to the writing workshop last year, and just over 40 middle and high school students were selected. “To participate in the program, the students must fill out an application form, along with a recommendation from a teacher. They also have to submit a written piece of their choice—which can be poems, plays, chapters from novels, short stories, essays, etc.,” she explains. A committee then reviews the written works and recommendations, and selects the students from that list.
Students’ writing efforts produced during the workshop are compiled, professionally published and digitally printed in a 6x9˝ book by Canon Solutions America customer GlobalSoft Digital Solutions in Mahwah, NJ. Last year, Canon Solutions America printed 500 copies of “From Rough Drafts to Masterpieces.” It was produced on an Océ VarioPrint 6000 cut-sheet monochrome printer, and the color covers and color inserts were printed on a Canon imagePRESS digital color press. The paper used for the perfect-bound book was Domtar’s 70-lb. Cougar Digital smooth text and 100-lb. Chorus ART gloss cover.
All donations, including proceeds from book sales (extra books are sold for $5 each), are given to the School District of Palm Beach County Education Foundation, which administers the funds.
To celebrate the publication of the students’ work, an official book signing is held in the fall to unveil the latest book at the City of Boca Raton Spanish River Library. “It’s just like a regular book signing event, where guests come around with their copies of the book to have the kids sign them,” says Fedderman. “Just to see the look of pride on our children’s faces as they see a long line of people waiting all the way out the door to get signed copies, really reaffirms why we do what we do in education.”
During the course of the evening, two students are selected from each of the schools to read their published pieces. For example, Ilana Jacquelie, who participated in the program in the first year, talked at a book signing event two years ago about what it meant for her to be a part of it, and what it is like to work as a freelance writer. Other students in the program have also gone on to become freelance writers, professional screen writers and professional bloggers.
Last year, Canon Solutions America received an award from the School District of Palm Beach County for its commitment to the program. “We are always looking to support causes in and around our local area, and knew this was an opportunity to give back to the community,” Hawkinson notes. “Programs like this make print very alive and relevant for future generations, which is why we are going to stay committed to it.”
While there are no definitive plans to expand to other schools and locations, Hawkinson said that Canon Solutions America is certainly open to the possibility that printing companies might be interested in starting similar programs within their local communities. IPG