City Academy 


January 14, 2019

Salt Lake City—Ten students at City Academy, a tuition-free charter school in Salt Lake City, have completed novels as part of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). National Novel Writing Month is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization based in Berkeley, Calif.

The students will be reading from their novels Friday, Jan. 25 at 6:30 p.m. at Weller Book Works in Trolley Square. The reading event is free and open to the public.

This is the 20th year that NaNoWriMo has been held. This year’s theme is “NaNoWriMo Is…” Last year, there were 394,507 participants in 646 different regions on six continents. Over 58,000 of these met the goal of writing 50,000 words in a month.

According to City Academy English teacher, Hana Jabr, “The Young Writers Program is the section of NaNoWriMo that the kids use to tally their words. This program recommends that students try for 30,000 words, but I encourage them to go for 50,000 because I know they can do it. At the end of November, I grade based on the effort they put in as well as their word count. Since 2017, NaNoWriMo has grown at City Academy to include students beyond the Creative Writing class. We have students who participate purely on their own, without a class grade on the line at all (the best kind of motivation!), and it just goes to emphasize the original purpose of individual dedication. I have students coming to me asking about NaNoWriMo because they’ve heard about it from their friends—students with a quiet passion for writing that, in many other circumstances, might not find the crowd that suits them.”

Jabr was initially introduced to NaNoWriMo by one of her college professors. In 2015, she decided to introduce it to her high school students.

She adds, “The process begins with dedication. Every student who joins the creative writing class must dedicate themselves to this challenge. That’s what makes this different from other classes and other projects. It’s about individual dedication and passion for your work. Students cannot succeed if they are writing the novel for a grade. It’s impossible unless there is a sincere desire to write a novel and to complete the challenge. What a lot of people may not realize is that we all have book ideas floating around in our minds, all we have to do is dig for them; find those stories that are begging to be told and write them down.”

Jabr said the class did a lot of prep work in the months prior to November using the Young Writers Program workbooks that help form and shape the ideas, characters, plots and stories. Students outline and pre-wrote until Nov. 1 (the rules don’t allow students to start writing until this date).

“NaNoWriMo is more than just writing. It challenges you to believe in yourself at your lowest moments. It forces you to overcome self-doubt. Even if you do absolutely nothing with your novel at the end of November, you’ve written a novel–a real, actual, full novel. It’s powerful and I think, no matter what, high school students who complete the challenge get a lot more out of it than just a novel. NaNoWriMo is a community. The kids can bond over struggles or celebrations during the month of November. They find that they can do things they never thought possible,” Jabr concluded.

About City Academy

City Academy was founded in 2000 by a group of University of Utah educators that dreamed of creating a different and more effective kind of school for grades 7 through 12. City Academy students enjoy a degree of personalized attention that simply can’t be found in large classrooms or online learning. The tuition-free public charter school offers small class sizes (a maximum of 25 students per class), a dedicated faculty and staff, and has now established programs designed to help students flourish in their education while becoming involved citizens of our communities. As Utah’s only Cambridge University Cambridge International Centre school, City Academy uniquely offers Cambridge advanced-placement courses and exams that are more highly regarded than AP or IB. Every City Academy graduate can receive a $1,000 scholarship to attend a post-high school educational institution. In 2015, City Academy students received over $1 million in scholarships.