At Tarpon Springs High, sophomores write novels

On Tuesday morning, Tarpon High sophomores Clarinell Vega and Lee Gurley, both 15, work on the tri-fold display of his novel.

DEMORRIS A. LEE | Times

On Tuesday morning, Tarpon High sophomores Clarinell Vega and Lee Gurley, both 15, work on the tri-fold display of his novel.

TARPON SPRINGS — It all started with a simple question in Alyssa Anthony's 10th-grade honors English class.

"If you could write a novel, what would it be about?" Anthony asked the Tarpon Springs High students in September.

From that discussion, the students began to talk plot structure and the creation and development of believable characters.

They began to jot down notes and ideas. From there, the ideas blossomed into paragraphs, pages and finally completed novels.

"Oh my God, to know that I completely wrote that myself," Kayla Hoffsetter, 16, said of her 491-page novel, The Melting Pot. "That's something that some people can't do or say they have done."

In all, 13 Tarpon High sophomores wrote novels. On Tuesday, they showcased their work at a reception for family and friends.

They created tri-fold desktop boards that highlighted the books, which were the product of eight months of writing, editing and rewriting.

The books range from 60 to 491 pages and cover literary genres from romantic mysteries and adventure to fantasy.

The school's art club helped the young writers design covers for the books, which have spiral spines.

"Very cool," said Lee Gurley, 15, and the author of Blood of Honor, a 140-page fantasy novel in which he developed an entire race of creatures that could surgically implant whatever they wanted such as wings to fly. "But I learned that no matter how hard you try, nothing ever stays the same. If you read the first draft to what I have now, it's completely different. As you write, you get to know your characters more and by the time you are done …"

Rachel Warner's 200-page Dreaming Reality takes readers to eight countries in search of animal spirits that overtake human bodies and control minds. The plot ultimately leads to multiple murders.

"I want to be a part-time author and this gave me a reason to do it," said Warner, 16. "I learned I'm able to do it if I take the time."

Ricky Thornton, 16, isn't big on writing, but he did manage to pen a 60-page novel and two 20-something-page short stories. His novel, 30 Days, takes readers to a place he enjoys, the wilderness. In 30 Days, the main character participates in a reality show that calls for him to survive in the wilderness for 30 days. If he does, he wins a large sum of money.

The main character of 30 Days is equipped with a gun, a couple of bullets and his German shepherd Roscoe.

"He ends up going crazy," Thornton said of his main character. "He kills his dog on Day 28 and presses a button to be picked up on Day 29."

Thornton said he learned how time-consuming writing can be.

"You should not wait to the last minute to do it — that's what I learned," he said. "It might not sound like a lot, but 100 pages is a lot."

Anthony, who is in her second year as a teacher, gave students a passing grade for completing the novel. She said because different dialects were used, it would have been hard to grade the young writers on grammar.

Anthony also noted that the students were still responsible for learning the required class curriculum while writing their books.

"The class has become such a family as a result of reading and helping each other edit," Anthony said. "I really feel that literature shares more about a person than just talent. There's a big piece of yourself in your work."

Demorris A. Lee can be reached at dalee@sptimes.com or (727)-445-4174.

At Tarpon Springs High, sophomores write novels 05/08/10 [Last modified: Saturday, May 8, 2010 2:36pm]

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