It was no accident that we stumbled across the One Year Adventure Novel (OYAN) curriculum at the Great Homeschool Convention this year. My son Andy bought it to dig into over the summer, and then we ended up signing up for their Summer Workshop in Kansas as well. God lined up this adventure for us, and it has blessed our lives incredibly over the past six weeks. If you have a young writer or you have an avid reader that could become a writer, I thought you might enjoy hearing our adventure story with this curriculum.
The Inciting Incident
Our Spring semester was saturated with stories. My middle daughter, Alyssa, was writing a short story for Challenge B, my youngest was writing stories with her curriculum, and Andy was procrastinating writing an essay in response to Plato's Meno about virtue while longing to be writing stories of his own like his sisters. So instead of writing that essay, he secretly started writing an adventure of his own where he worked on processing this idea of virtue in story form.
He bashfully admitted his procrastination while sharing the beginnings of his thoughts on this story that was cooking in his mind. I loved it! While I still made him write the virtue essay, I wanted to provide an opportunity for him to cultivate this interest.
Even though Andy loves Latin, I don't want him to totally specialize yet. I want to provide him with multiple opportunities to discover his God given gifts as well as strengthen his shortcomings. As we headed to the Great Homeschool Convention, we were on the lookout for a good resource to help guide us in story writing.
I think that we must be living in a renaissance of writers, because we found a talk focused on cultivating young writers each session of the convention. In our first session, we heard Daniel Schwabaur (Mr. S) talk about The Write Questions: Inspiring Kids to Write Through the Art of Storytelling. This was exactly what we were looking for.
The One Year Adventure Novel curriculum walks students through a series of questions to help them map out their stories based on creative principles of a good story:
- Someone to care about
- Something to want
- Something to dread
- Something to suffer
- Something to learn
My son's interest was peaked, and continued to grow as he heard from other inspiring authors like N.D. Wilson, S.D. Smith, and the Rabbit Room writers. With so many wonderful men and women discussing their passion to reclaim imaginations for the Lord, my son was ready to get started pouring his heart into an adventure novel of his own.
Not only did he purchase the curriculum himself, but he also signed up to attend their Summer Workshop. Andrew Peterson was going to be there, and his Wingfeather Saga series is one of our favorites. How could we not go? This meant that he had a short amount of time to work through the material in order to share his writing in critique groups. He was up for the task.
We had great aspirations of starting the material in April, but our Classical Conversations group was still going and all of the big projects at the end of the semester prevented us starting before May. With the camp the second week in June, we knew that we had to bring the material with us on our trip to the beach if we were even going to be done on time.
Andy can be quite persuasive, and we soon jumped on board with the story writing. Alyssa decided to join him at the camp, and then his little sister didn't want to be left out, so we went from writing one story in our family to five. My husband was the most excited about joining in on the journey. I ended up putting my story on pause to collaborate with my youngest.
I never would have guessed that my favorite part about our trip to the beach was working on these stories together. We would watch a session video, work through the map questions, write a scene, and then read our scenes to one another. Then we'd watch the next session and go sit in the hot tub and discuss story possibilities. It was so much fun!
We made it through the first 39 lessons, which was equivalent to the first semester of material, in two weeks time. It was intense, but we saturated ourselves in story and it woke up parts of our hearts in ways we couldn't imagine. With only one more week before the camp, Andy and Alyssa wrote four chapters of their novel to bring to camp.
Lessons & Achievements
The kids and I packed up Andy's car and headed off to MidAmerica Nazarene University in Olathe, Kansas to attend the Summer Workshop. If you have a student enrolled, parents and siblings under 13 can attend for free. This was great for me and my youngest!
Upon arriving, I heard that the theme was Rising from the Ashes and I knew that God had ordained my family to be here for this time. Over the past two years, we've seen many of our expectations, dreams, and ideals burned to the ground. When my sister was killed by a drunk driver in 2016, it impacted our lives as we ministered to her family. Reality changed instantly. This also meant that we had our own grief to process as well as some post traumatic stress to overcome. Some days hope seemed futile. When everything burns to the ground, what hope do you have?
Day one of the conference, Latin with Andy totally crashed. With over 1800 members, I couldn't just let it go. Even though we have some of the nicest people as members of our site, I still feared a virtual mob of angry people hunting me down. I have a pretty good imagination. The site was down because a little gadget that allows people to sign in updated and didn't communicate with my site anymore. The timing couldn't have been worse.
I didn't have my laptop with me and my husband (i.e. tech support) was at a CC Practicum at home leading a training. I felt the enemy seeking to take this beautiful opportunity and once again burn my hope to the ground.
Mr. S spoke that morning about rising from the ashes. One thing he said really resonated with me:
This inspired me to take my problem, give it to the Lord, and use His strength to solve the it and not my own. So, over my lunch break, my youngest and I ran back to our little Airbnb house and I got to business. In thirty minutes I managed to kill my website again, contact Host Gator to get access back, delete the problem, shop for a new solution, buy it, install it, and make it work. I felt like my brain was about to explode, but I know that my problem was only possible to solve through the Lord's strength. Phew!
The Black Moment
What I really didn't want to do was miss the Andrew Peterson concert that night. His music and his stories walked me through my time of grief after losing my sister. I didn't expect however that hearing him live again would stir up all of those raw emotions, and after my action packed day, I wasn't prepared for dealing with them.
I don't love how I handle my grief. I have no strength for kindness towards my kids, compassion for others, or patience with my husband. Didn't I just learn to use God's strength when I'm in the ashes? Not only that, but I let my imagination run wild.
Earlier that day I couldn't get my husband to answer his phone when I was struggling through my website issue. It was frustrating then, but in this fog of grief it was frightening. It's not like I was trying to call him during the concert, but at the very end, I got a call from a number I didn't know listed from my home town. My thoughts started racing to this terrifying place of what if something happened to my husband and I'm up in Kansas with my kids. How would we get home if he's been hurt. I can't drive that far while I'm crying. I told you that I have a good imagination. I remembered the phone call from the night of my sister's accident, so I know phone calls like that are possible.
I called my husband on the way home, and he was just fine. He didn't show me the compassion for my imagination that I wanted, so we fought. I argued with my kids that night and the next morning. Why don't we just go home? We heard Andrew Peterson, I'm good to go.
With my bad attitude threatening to ruin our time, I knew that we needed to carefully consider what the Lord wanted for us to learn from this experience. I needed to meet Torry Martin, actor, screenwriter, and writer for Adventures in Odyssey.
This man is a man after God's heart. He reminded me so much of my father: humble while successful, transparent about his sins, and passionate about his faith. You can read his life story in his two new books: Of Moose and Men (which I can't put down), and The Call of the Mild (which I heard excerpts from and can't wait to read as well). I was so amazed and encouraged by his heart. I know God wanted me to stay just to see someone who exposes their mess and glorifies God all the more. It was truly inspiring.
This encounter helped me change my attitude and allow God to work in our time there. I took advantage of the alone time I had with my youngest and worked to be present with her. Andy found kindred spirits in his critique group that he will continue to connect with through the OYAN forum. Alyssa worked to share her heart through sharing her story with others. This was such a great opportunity for my whole family to experience a phoenix moment to rise from the ashes.
The last talk from Mr. S centered around the idea of seeking goodness. We write villains so easily because we relate to them so much more than we do our heroes. As we look to Christ, we need to look at his innocence to seek what goodness looks like. Alyssa walked away with the idea that Jesus can redeem you wherever you are. You're never too far gone to be rescued.
She got that from a writing camp. We're already reserving the second week of June of 2019 to return to this camp. My kids found their people. They found home.
One Year Adventure Novel
I shared our story connected with the OYAN curriculum in the way that the material walks students through writing their own stories. This is more than a semester credit or a task to complete. If you take on the One Year Adventure Novel, you'll be writing a book in a year and also opening yourself up for adventures beyond your imagination.
Betsy Strauss is an unexpected homeschooler, mother of three, who is in a relationship with a sweet man for life. She loves reading books, drinking coffee, and learning anything with her kids.