LEWISTON, Maine (NEWS CENTER) — A Maine children's author will be able to finish writing his second book thanks to the help of some Lewiston students.
The students created a character they thought would fit into the "Fletcher McKenzie" series that Maine author Gary Savage created.
And today, one character was selected from more than 10 entries.
For the past two months, Maine author Gary Savage, who goes by the pen name G. Ross Savage, has done at Farwell Elementary School in Lewiston what no other published author has done anywhere before. "First time that a published author has actually worked with students in any environment within a school to create a character that would go into a published book."
Savage's original book, "Fletcher McKenzie and the Passage to Whole" was picked up by publishing giant Harper Collins, which immediately asked him to churn out a follow up. Tapping into his target audience, young to juvenile readers, Savage turned to Farwell Elementary to encourage audience participation in his creative process.
Wednesday morning in Lewiston, teams of Farwell Elementary students presented the characters they created to a packed auditorium and a panel of judges.
One student explained: "When she was 8, she ran away. Six years later, still on the run, Feliciti ran into Fletcher." Another, touting another character, shared "she has brown hair, she likes turtles, and her pet is named wurtle, she likes 80's and 90's music." And another: "And he has a pink bunny. His name is Devon."
One after another, a dozen teams described the attributes of their characters---explaining how they'd play into the book's plot...the judges, listening carefully...rated each group's efforts. And then the votes were tallied.
"Ladies and gentlemen, we have a winner..Lalia!"
The character Lalia, created by five sixth-graders, won the judge's nod. Rebecca Jacques said she shocked. "I felt like I was going to have tears of joy!"
Student Miriam LeMay said she too was surprised, and that she enjoyed the process of creating the character, Lalia. "While we were working, it was actually really fun just to have teamwork and just cooperating with all of our partners."
Annora Johnson said she felt an instant connection when she was introduced to the first book: Fletcher McKenzie and the Passage to Whole. "When I first read the book, I thought it was a really interesting book and it just caught my attention and I wanted to make a character for the next book."
That character, Lalia is a young woman who has endured loss and has a close connection to Fletcher. "Well I came up with the part that she had to collect six stars because in the book there was a symbol that connected to the passage to whole."
Wyatt Tarr was the only boy among Lalia's creators. He said he has been living and breathing the character for weeks. "I've practically come up with an entire movie with the character, just in my head."
And Wyatt's ideas may actually wind up on the big screen-word is the creators of the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings are very interested in turning Savage's Fletcher books into movies, now with a different ending than he could have planned. "I didn't quite honestly know which one was going to win so I've looked at the board they've created, I'm taking it home with me. It'll be some work. It will lead the story in a different direction which is what it's all about."
Savage says he is proud of the student's work, describing the characters created by all of the teams as unique and intriguing. He says he will likely use pieces from all of the characters the students created in his second or following books. The biggest compliment he has received has come from the parents of the elementary schoolers. His project, they say, has engaged the kids beyond anything they've seen in a very long time. They are reading and they are writing. What's more; they are enjoying it. And that, in the end, is all that Gary Savage could ask for.
Follow author Gary Savage, a.k.a. G. Ross Savage on Twitter.