RIVERDALE -- Oaklen Weyland has dreamed of becoming a published novelist for most of his life.
"I've always thought about it," said Oaklen, 12. "This is just the first chance I got."
Oaklen, along with Good Foundations Academy classmates Molly Foraker, 11, and Grace Bailey, 12, will see their dreams come true this summer, although sales and distribution will be up to the sixth-graders.
The three spent the school year crafting their novels by completing curriculum from the One Year Adventure Novel program (www.oneyearnovel.com),
The program, geared for high school students and for teenagers who are home schooled, tutors students on how to develop interesting, multi-dimensional characters; to craft a satisfying plot, with twists; and to introduce conflict, and resolve it in unexpected ways.
But the actual stories come from the minds of the kids.
Grace's story is about Virginia, a pioneer girl about her age, with a family a lot like Grace's. When her family is kidnapped by a hostile tribe of Indians, it's up to Virginia to attempt a rescue of any survivors.
"She feels it necessary to retrieve them, and she learns love can require you to sacrifice everything," Grace said.
Molly's story is about a girl named Zena, and starts in New York City on the day of the 9-11 terrorist attacks. Zena's mother is killed, and Zena is kidnapped by her estranged father.
Held under guard for years, Zena begins to realize her father's mental problems stem from drugs. She's 18 by the time a guard helps Zena escape. Then, Zena learns she was adopted.
Oaklen's story takes place in two dimensions, and follows a 15-year-old boy who travels to Egypt, learns a friend has died in a gang fight, and ends up in an alternate world where he discovers his old acquaintance is behind a plot that could end the world.
"It's a sci-fi fantasy," Oaklen said. "The workbook helps you develop your ideas. My guy is quirky. He hates rats, but loves mice."
Good Foundations English teacher Sue Goers is the force behind the trio and their now-completed, hand-written manuscripts.
"They're doing really well," Goers said. "Their stories are rich in detail, with great conflicts, developed heroes and twists. It's been a lot of work."
Goers has used the One Year Novel program with high school students in another state.
"It really is a 9-12 (grade level) program, but our program at Good Foundations is accelerated," she said.
Goers paid the $200 to get access to the program, but selected only the students she thought could successfully complete the required course work. Goers invited six students to participate, but because the cost for students was $70, only three students were able to accept the invitation.
Goers said the three novel writers have boosted their skills significantly during the school year.
"Their writing skills have intensified, and they are doing better work than some of the 12th-graders I had," Goers said. "In all the work they do, their vocabulary is strong and their sentence structure is rich. It's not the writing you would expect from a normal sixth-grader."
Goers pushes all her students, with assignments for weekly essays and research and creative writing assignment throughout the school year.
Good Foundations Academy, a K-6 charter school, opened in the 2010-2011 school year, and stresses academic excellence. Goers said this year's sixth graders started this school year with one previous year at Good Foundations, and came to her with above-average skills.
Costs paid to the One Year Novel fund the creation of original cover art for each novel. Students can order extra copies of their books as gifts, or to sell.
All three young novelists plan to rest up this summer, and to read some good books by other authors.
"I'm working on the 'Harry Potter' books, and 'The Son of Neptune,' " Oaklen said. "I'm also going to work on my vocabulary this summer, and try to take advanced classes next year."
"I'm going to write more, and read the classics," Molly said.
"My goal is to read all the classics, so I know what it takes to write a classic" Grace said. "I'll just keep pushing forward to be a novelist. I just love to get my emotions down on paper, and think about how I could sell my books and provide for my family, and have a legacy. It would let my children and grandchildren know they can do something with their life."