(written by Linda Smutz, from newsletter)

“I’m the worst kid in this class.”

These were the first words out of A’Feyah’s mouth, after nodding shyly to grant me permission to watch her work on her XO. As a stranger from the mainland with zero credibility, there was no point in trying to persuade her otherwise, so I simply asked to hear about her story. That’s how I found out about CeCe the dog, who was happy enough living under a table outside A’Feyah’s trailer until another dog joined the family one day. The draft was a little rough, but it had everything: characters, setting, plot, problem, tension, and resolution. The story also had something pencil and paper could not have provided: animated illustrations. Wavy lines of wind blew delicious kitchen smells toward CeCe; a bird flew and the sun rose in the sky. Together, A’Feyah and I shared a wonderful writer’s conference — I offered questions her readers might have, and she expanded her thoughts and developed the plot a little more.

Two days later, I returned to fourth grade just in time to see Bill Stelzer’s lesson on copying and pasting illustrations onto different pages to allow for different animations. He lost me about three minutes into the process, but the students were listening carefully. Since the day’s task was to continue editing text rather than illustrations, I wondered if anyone would remember the several steps needed to manipulate the drawings. While the other kids moved closer to Bill for another demonstration (this one involving superheroes), A’Feyah stayed with her XO, busily making her sun shine and her bird fly on the same page, with a few missteps but no help from anyone. This self-proclaimed “worst kid in the class” was programming her computer to tell a story from her own life, with animated illustrations, no less. And it was a good story. She gave me a broad, confident smile when I asked if she would share her story with students in my school. I don’t believe A’Feyah thinks she’s the worst kid in the class anymore.

We talked about swimming and dogs and jellyfish. A’Feyah is full of stories waiting to be told. Getting them out of her head and into the world would appear to be a hopeless proposition, were it not for the skills and confidence growing in this young girl, thanks to a group of caring adults and the technology that allows her to write, illustrate and publish her work. It’s no small task and enormously time-consuming to mentor young writers and artists, but I can’t imagine a more fulfilling endeavor with as much potential to preserve the integrity of Caribbean communities and culture.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *