School & District Management

English Class Publishes E-Book (and It’s Already More Popular Than ‘The Odyssey’)

By Marlena Chertock — May 13, 2014 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Corrected.

Freshmen honors English students at Los Gatos High School in California published a poetry anthology last week, becoming what might be the first ever class-produced self-published e-book ever.

More than 120 students from two English classes contributed poems to the anthology, called Windows to the Teenage Soul, now available for purchase online.

Los Gatos English teacher Tonya McQuade led the project, with help from Kathleen Wehr, another 9th grade English teacher. Their students each chose one original poem to include, and students in McQuade’s class took over production of the book. The poems in the aptly titled anthology cover familiar topics for teenagers, like identity, emotion, technology, sports, school, and inspirational messages.

The anthology became the bestselling poetry book on iBooks on May 6, ranking above The Odyssey, which pleased the students, McQuade said. McQuade wanted to use self-publishing to offer her students the chance to share their poetry with a wider audience than the high school.

“Through poetry, people can express their deepest emotions, longings, questions, desires, frustrations, secrets, and so much more,” McQuade said in an email. “It is my goal every year to help my students discover the joy, beauty, self-expression, and catharsis of poetry--both in reading and writing it. I thought it would be wonderful if the students could share their poems with a larger audience--that way, the teens get an opportunity to have their voices heard, and the adult readers get the chance to see teens in a positive light and see just how thoughtful, creative, and articulate many of them are.”

But the book-publishing project was about more than just poetry. McQuade’s students split into teams for editing, layout and design, art and photography, marketing and publicity, and event planning to produce the book.

“The five teams ... gave the students the chance to learn and develop some real-life skills they may use in the future,” McQuade said. “How often as a student do you get to write press releases, call news stations, create artwork for publication, design media campaigns, set up Evite accounts, plan and orchestrate an event for 150 people, then finally, see your book for sale online?”

The class got some help from the town’s Los Gatos Public Library. Librarian Henry Bankhead wrote a grant to fund the project, which helped to purchase iPads and Macbook Pros for the work. He also helped organize the book launch at the library on May 6.

The class also partnered with Smashwords, a distributor of self-published books whose founder and CEO, Mark Coker, graduated from Los Gatos High. Coker had previously worked in a partnership with Bankhead to promote authorship in the community and was looking to create an e-book publishing program in local schools. Smashwords allows users to publish e-books for free.

Coker presented best business practices and benefits of self-publishing to McQuade’s class, which he offers for educators to download and use in their classrooms. He also worked on the final formatting of the book.

In the anthology, McQuade includes a timeline of the project and a teacher’s guide on how to produce similar class e-books. Coker also provides marketing and publishing tips. And the students provide an overview of the work each team produced.

The students will use the money they raise from the sales to fund their 2017 senior prom.

“It’s exciting to be an author,” McQuade said. “In the past, to self-publish a book would be an impossible task for a class or an individual unless someone put up a lot of money upfront. With Smashwords, we can publish our book for free, and the students can even make money off of the sales. This is certainly a project that is available to all and it’s certainly one I plan to repeat in the future. And some of those students may even decide they want to try publishing some of their other literary work.”

Image: Windows to the Teenage Soul cover, drawn by freshman Ali Del Vecchio--English teacher Tonya McQuade.

Correction: This post originally misspelled Smashwords CEO Mark Coker’s last name.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.


Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Teaching Webinar
What’s Next for Teaching and Learning? Key Trends for the New School Year
The past 18 months changed the face of education forever, leaving teachers, students, and families to adapt to unprecedented challenges in teaching and learning. As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Curriculum Webinar
How Data and Digital Curriculum Can Drive Personalized Instruction
As we return from an abnormal year, it’s an educator’s top priority to make sure the lessons learned under adversity positively impact students during the new school year. Digital curriculum has emerged from the pandemic
Content provided by Kiddom
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Leadership for Racial Equity in Schools and Beyond
While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to reveal systemic racial disparities in educational opportunity, there are revelations to which we can and must respond. Through conscientious efforts, using an intentional focus on race, school leaders can
Content provided by Corwin

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School & District Management 10 Ways to Tackle Education's Urgent Challenges
As the school year gets underway, we ask hard questions about education’s biggest challenges and offer some solutions.
2 min read
Conceptual Image of schools preparing for the pandemic
Pep Montserrat for Education Week
School & District Management Reported Essay Principals Need Social-Emotional Support, Too
By overlooking the well-being of their school leaders, districts could limit how much their schools can flourish.
7 min read
Conceptual Illustration
Pep Montserrat for Education Week
School & District Management From Our Research Center Educator Stress, Anti-Racism, and Pandemic Response: How You're Feeling
A new nationally representative survey offers key takeaways from teachers, principals, and district leaders.
EdWeek Research Center
1 min read
2021 BI COVER no text DATA crop
Pep Montserrat for Education Week
School & District Management Download 8 Tips for Building a Digital Learning Plan That Conquers Chaos
Craft flexible strategies, encourage experimentation with new instructional models, and regularly solicit feedback.
1 min read
onsr edtech tips
Getty