An author teaches by example at South-Western City Schools.

They say the pen is mightier than the sword, and it turns out it can also conquer the doubts of middle schoolers.

It began when sixth-grade writing teacher Roxanne Walker gave an assignment to her students: write a Halloween mystery. The 11- and 12-year-olds at Allen Elementary in Chillicothe were daunted, but she understood their reluctance. After all, the rules of creative writing are more subjective than those of, say, fractions.

Thus, Walker promised to pen a carnival mystery in solidarity with them and allowed them to see her work along the way. (She also had direct knowledge of that subject, having grown up traveling on carnival routes and helping with her family’s food concession business.) Her students were always asking where she was in the writing process and engaging with her as she explained her challenges and triumphs.

“I’d share so much of my process—how to write descriptively and figure out plot points—and they’d think, ‘Maybe I can do this, too,’” Walker says. She explains that the more they write, the better their creativity, vocabulary and performance on state tests.

That carnival mystery became “The Disappearing Act,” her first novel, and she’s continuing her collaborative writing projects at Galloway Ridge Intermediate School with her third novel, a loose sequel to the first book.

About 30 students have gone beyond the assignment and joined Walker’s extracurricular writing club. “They were so excited the first day,” she says, adding that some had already begun writing and designing book covers. The goal is to have the kids publish their work on Amazon by year’s end.

“Creativity still exists,” she says. “Kids just need to be empowered.”

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