Behind the Book has enjoyed a special relationship with the Community Health Academy of the Heights, or CHAH, for many years. It is the school in which we piloted grade-wide programs that followed students throughout their tenure at the high school. So far, the pilot programs have proved to be very successful.
CHAH senior Jose, pictured above, is one example of the influence we have had on CHAH students over the years. Jose first became involved with Behind the Book programs when he was in ninth grade, and his English classes read Ten Mile River by Paul Griffin. Since then, Jose has worked with two other Behind the Book authors, Matt de la Pena and Patricia McCormick, who visited his 10th and 11th grade English classes.
On Monday, we sat down with Jose, who has taken to writing in his spare time since he became involved with Behind the Book programs.
“I started writing when I got bored,” Jose said, when asked how he’d come upon his creative habit. “I’d be sitting in class, and I’d be really, really bored, and one day I started writing. Then I started asking my friends to give me things to write about before class, and I’d try to write about all of them before the end of the class.”
Jose’s habit has produced several short stories featuring characters with superpowers, or with touches of the supernatural.
“I’m usually inspired by what’s around me,” he said. “I really like stories about superheroes, and I wanted to create something like X-Men, but so that every character with a superpower leads a normal life, and not an isolated one.”
Among the many influences that inspired his writing, Jose cites an assignment given to him in ninth grade by Paul Griffin during a Behind the Book program.
“We were told to go out and take pictures of our neighborhoods, and then we had to write a short story inspired by them. That was probably my favorite program – it was a totally new way to approach writing, and it made it cool.” Jose went on to say that this kind of prompt, where there is no right answer, gives students a freedom to write that they don’t normally have in their structured English classes.
Our discussion eventually moved on to other topics, such as Jose’s and his classmates’ experiences in the grade-wide programs, which led to an interesting insight about our programs. “At lunch and stuff, we’d all get together and talk about what we did in the programs,” Jose told Behind the Book COO Mica Gutierrez. “We’d see who did what things with the author, and try to see if we all did the same things, or if one of us got a more interesting program.”
Jose’s words also demonstrated a level of engagement with the books and the authors among the students that was both unprecedented and encouraging. He recounted his experience in 10th grade, when he and his friends in other English classes worked with author Matt de la Pena. “We all got together at lunch, and we started talking about the writing assignment. Eventually, we all came up with this zombie apocalypse story, and we ended up writing it in five parts.”
Finally, Jose had a few words of advice for other budding writers.
“Don’t be afraid to be bored. If you do get bored, it’s a good thing – you find a creative outlet; you go into something you’re comfortable with. And make sure you’re thinking a lot, that you ask questions. And don’t change your first idea – it will likely be the best one you have.”
You can read an excerpt of Jose’s superhero short story “World of Truix” below.
It was 12:00PM when the council had converged. The growing problems of mischief and destruction was getting out of hand.
“Omartrix, what did you say you found throughout the city?” I said.
‘Status of the city is safe for now, but I did feel a rather heavy storm brewing up north. It does not seem like a normal storm though, it almost feels like it has dark energy in it.” said Omartix.
“You and your dark energy senses. It’s probably a hailstorm,” muttered Jetra.
“Well that should be fine, Omartrix, but now we must talk about the matter at hand – Deathro. He is making a plan, it’s huge. We need to find him and lock him up. We will need to send a search party out to the areas to find him. Everyone will lead their party and keep in contact at all times,” I said.
Everyone got their supplies ready and were off with their parties. Clutrix, with super speed, went through land, racing around with others that had super speed. Omartrix went through sky, jumping from cloud to cloud. He transferred a portion of himself into all the clouds so he can survey the land better. Jetra scanned areas with super sonic sound. Every sound that bounced back to her she would see a clear picture of everything that got touched. I went through the water as an aquatic beast. We were all on the hunt for Deathro.
by Jenna Danoy, Social Media Marketing Intern