OGDEN -- Every year for the past 21, student authors in Carol Wilde's honors language arts classes have complained about missing their book deadlines.
And every year, Wilde has offered the same response. "That's not my problem," said Wilde, a longtime teacher at Mount Ogden Junior High School. "You fired me."
Teaching responsibility and planning is a big part of the payoff from Wilde's annual assignment, for which students write and edit an original story, create the artwork and page layout, and produce a single copy of a book, complete with title page, and a dust jacket with author biography or reviewer comments.
"Every year I ask students if they want me to set all the deadlines or they want to fire me and set their own publishing company," Wilde said. "They always fire me."
Wilde retired this week after 23 years at Mount Ogden Junior High, but not before staging one last authors' event, at which parents, friends and students could peruse tables of books created by the 90 or so students in Wilde's three classes.
Wilde sat nearby, with a needle and thread, hand-binding the loose pages of late submissions.
"They can write on any topic they like, but I don't want horror, because it's so difficult to write," the teacher said, drawing thread through layers of paper. "They learn what makes a good story, and they make lots of revisions to improve it. Sometimes I will tell them, 'I don't understand this,' or sometimes it's punctuation. The editors do most of the editing."
Each author's 16-page book is assigned a student editor and art director. Students determine what will happen if an author misses deadlines, inconveniencing others involved in the process. Most classes have agreed that late work will mean points are deducted from the final grade.
"I got a letter yesterday from a student who was graduating," Wilde said Thursday. "He thanked me for my 'brutal dictatorship style' and my 'harsh critiques' that 'improved his writing style,' " she said, her voice breaking with emotion. "He got a full-ride scholarship to Westminster, and he wanted to thank me for pushing him."
Another former writing student will be studying at Weber State University this fall, as a staff member at The Signpost, the WSU student newspaper, Wilde said.
"They work very hard," Wilde said of her students, pride in her voice. "It's all them, not me."
Wilde launched her annual six-week book project about the time that the brain dominance theory became a hot topic, she said. Individuals whose right brains dominate are believed by many to be better at creativity, art, and expressing and reading emotion. Those whose left brain dominate are believed to be better at logic, critical thinking, numbers and reasoning.
"So this project had something to push everybody out of their comfort zone," Wilde said, smiling. "When you deal with things that make you uncomfortable, you grow."
Sharon Dove, of Ogden, is the mother of seventh-grade author Alyssa Dove, 12.
"I'm very impressed," Sharon Dove said, looking at her daughter's creation and the rows of displayed books.
"I think they learned every dynamic in this process," she said. "The things they learned, about dividing a project into smaller tasks, will help them do anything they want. They made a book. I think my daughter and probably all the students realize they have talent they didn't know they had. It gave them confidence."
Alyssa wrote a story based on her love of dance and her 92-year-old grandfather's service in the war.
"I learned to be organized and focused," Alyssa said, of the book experience. "If you get distracted, you can't do anything."
Student writer Elizabeth Pickett, 12, of Ogden, wrote "Good (Bad) Luck at the Art Museum."
"Typing and editing were the least fun," she said. "Drawing illustrations was the most fun.
Mom Laurie Pickett was impressed with her daughter's work.
"It's something to keep," she said. "My two older boys made books, too, and they learned to work with other people, to plan, and to be creative. And they are still proud of their books."