Creativity Gone Wild

SACRAMENTO REGION, CA (MPG)  |  By Elise Spleiss
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Local Nonprofits Help Young Authors’ Dreams Come True

SACRAMENTO REGION, CA (MPG) - How many children do you know who have written illustrated, and published their own book?  In Citrus Heights, 125 students, 1st through 5th grade, at the Mariposa Avenue Elementary School have added “author” to their resume, which will follow them through high school and beyond.

This unique program called “Creativity Gone Wild” is taught by members of the Mariposa Literary Academy in Citrus Heights and is designed to inspire students to stretch their minds and use their imaginations in new ways.
               
The program was the brainchild of Karen Szakacs, a kindergarten teacher at Mariposa in 2014, and Marsha Robinson, a local author of children’s books.  Together with Cherelyn Martello, the three women launched the first academy in 2014.
               
The spark that ignited the idea for the student authored books came when a kindergarten boy at Mariposa heard Robinson read her book “Rescuing Humphrey” to the class and afterwards raised his hand. He asked her to write another book about Humphrey. She answered by suggesting he write it. He replied, “I don’t know how,” and the Mariposa Literary Academy was born.
              
Since January, 2014 the Academy has taught 11 after-school academies (two per year) with 125 young authors to-date proudly producing their own hard cover fiction books at the end of the 16-session academy.  A maximum of 12 students are chosen by their teacher to participate in each academy.
               
The entire book is the work of the student author. They come up with their own fictional story, with a beginning, middle and conclusion, along with illustrations. They begin with a normal life experience such as a camping trip in the woods with their family.  They are told to enhance it using their imagination, such as being transported to another planet by space aliens. The results have truly been mind-boggling.               
              
To help teach the authors how to illustrate their own books, Peter Blueberry, alias Lance Pyle - a children's book author and illustrator, volunteers his time explaining the art of illustration and helping students with their own work.
               
Shutterfly, an American internet-based publishing service, prints the books for about $15 each. Each student receives a hardcover book for themselves, a hardcover book to sign for the school library and the Academy receives a paper copy of each student’s book. They have become the most popular books checked out by students.
               
While instruction and the printed books are free to participants, actual cost per pupil averages $50. In addition to the cost of publishing, funds are used for items such as paper and art supplies, snacks, and photography.
              
Financially, the Literary Academy, Creativity Gone Wild, is managing to stay solvent with the help of two philanthropic organizations and other donations.

Through word of mouth the Rotary Club of Citrus Heights and Soroptimist International of Citrus Heights immediately stepped up and have continued to provide the largest portion of the over $6,000 needed to fund the program for the last five years. The Optimist Club of Citrus Heights and Mariposa Parent Faculty Organization have also provided funds. 
        
Robinson stated in an email, “I would like to show my thanks to the organizations that have supported this program, to the volunteers that help us run the program, and to the school itself for allowing us to use their campus.” 
               
She would also like to invite other schools to look at the “possibilities that an academy like this can provide students” in their schools. The Mariposa Literary Academy would love to share their experiences with local elementary school teachers.