Westlake Middle School Students Set to Officially Become Published Authors at Thursday Evening Book Release Celebration with Help of Chapter 510 & the Dept. of Make Believe


PRESS RELEASE Thursday, December 3, 2020Contact: John SasakiCommunications Director 510-214-2080[email protected]Westlake Middle School Students Set to Officially Become Published Authors at Thursday Evening Book Release Celebration with Help of Chapter 510 and the Dept. of Make Believe
Oakland, CA — Thursday, December 3rd will be a special evening for students at Westlake Middle School, and especially so for two specific students. They are the guests of honor at a Book Launch Celebration, because each of them wrote a novel, and Chapter 510 has published them. Prior to the 2019-20 school year, Chapter 510 built out a new Writers’ Room at Westlake, and in the time since, the students have been taking a novel-writing class led by teaching artist and author Thaddeus Howze. The two students being honored will read aloud from their books during the celebration.

There are now a total of eight students who took advantage of the Writers’ Room, and the spirit of the room during distance learning, to write the novels. Once a week, students met with Howze to learn how to write a novel, and they met regularly with their editorial mentors and professional illustrators. Each day during lunch, they devoted themselves to working on their books. They were originally challenged to come in each day during November 2019 for National Novel Writing Month, but they continued their work long after that. They wrote all the way through the time the schools closed in March because of the pandemic.

The novels the students created, which are all being published by Chapter 510, have diverse titles ranging from Sunny, to My Ninja Village, to Full Snow Wolf Moon. They will each be highlighted this school year, two per month. On Thursday evening, the two books in the spotlight will be Secrets by Arlita Michelle Bailey and illustrated by Jessica Jones, and Hedija’s Feast of Friends by Halla Alajji and illustrated by Aisa Villarosa.

Some of the reasons the students gave for creating the novels were they wanted to be a published author, they wanted to share a story with their friends and family and they wanted to see their life represented in a story.

In Arlita Michelle Bailey’s debut novel, Secrets, two friends navigate the complicated world of sixth grade—complete with two bullies who like to embarrass them. One day in the park, the girls stumble upon something that changes everything. Armed with a power that unveils the secrets of their peers, the girls turn to the challenges of middle school with newfound confidence. As the year progresses, though, they discover that the greatest power of all may lie in friendship.

In Halla Alajji’s debut novel, Hedija’s Feast of Friends, Hedija’s family flees the war in Yemen and starts over in Utah. Hedija braves the new experience with an open heart and mind, but finds she must rely more than ever on her strengths when she meets a classmate whose mind is decidedly more closed than her own.

All the books will be available in Chapter 510’s online store, the Dept. of Make Believe, by June 2021 (including e-Book versions). Everyone, including media, is invited to join the Book Launch Celebration.

WHAT: Westlake Middle School Student Novels Launch Celebration
WHEN: 6:00 p.m., Thursday, December 3
WHERE: Zoom – Meeting ID: 89431935051, Password: 743347###About the Oakland Unified School DistrictIn California’s most diverse city, Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) is dedicated to creating a learning environment where “Every Student Thrives!” More than half of our students speak a non-English language at home. And each of our 81 schools is staffed with talented individuals uniting around a common set of values: Students First, Equity, Excellence, Integrity, Cultural Responsiveness and Joy. We are committed to preparing all students for college, career and community success. 

To learn more about OUSD’s Full Service Community District focused on academic achievement while serving the whole child in safe schools, please visit OUSD.org and follow us @OUSDnews.
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