Local author, Ronald Holtman, gave 17 students and five teachers from Wooster’s Edgewood Middle School the opportunity to provide feedback on his developing novel, Jack’s Rules. As part of the author’s focus group, the students and teachers were given copies of the novel to read and were asked to provide topical feedback to Holtman on characterization and plot development.
“We were excited to provide an opportunity to our students to participate in this activity because they could see the writing process of a professional while a novel is still under development,” said Mike Sexton, language arts teacher, Edgewood Middle School. “Additionally, the students are interacting with characters who are typically under-represented in literature: the poor and the homeless. This opened many students to see struggles that they may not experience in their everyday lives, and it allows them to see the perspective of two characters who are experiencing such struggles. In short, it provides a potential paradigm shift.”
Jack’s Rules is written in a two-point perspective, from a homeless brother and sister. In the book, they go from living with their mother in a shelter to finding temporary housing with a kind man named Jack. The novel touches on many themes of social justice but in a way that is appropriate for junior high students. The characters struggle with feelings of self-worth, bullying, abuse and neglect. Jack helps to coach them as their family works to find stability.
Holtman took the feedback from students and teachers and revised portions of his novel. On Jan. 30, Holtman will read a section of the revised text to the students and teachers during a luncheon.
“Students will be able to hear how their feedback influenced the storyline,” said Sexton. “Mr. Holtman has also promised each of the participants a dedication in his book as well as a copy of the print edition, which will be very cool for all of us involved.”
“We are so grateful to Mr. Holtman for allowing our students this incredible hands-on learning experience,” said Rich Leone, director of secondary education. “For our middle-schoolers to be able to read a novel in development and then understand and see how they can make a difference and provide valuable ideas and feedback is so important. This is definitely a lesson that will resonate with them throughout their lives.”