When we last spoke to Chris Twyman, the CEO of Cambridge-based BoomWriter, more than 500 schools were utilizing the company’s free, interactive creative writing program. Over the last nine months, BoomWriter’s expanded its reach even further, now pushing 1,500 schools in nearly 20 countries. And now, more students will be given the opportunity to jump on board, as BoomWriter gears up to launch their own Writing Club.
“This is an opportunity for kids to participate in a similar writing model outside of school, and they can do it independently,” says co-founder Ken Haynes, who first became involved with BoomWriter when he incorporated it into his Brookline classroom. Twyman’s daughter was Haynes’s student at the time, and he received the school principal’s blessing to test out the program.
“The interest on behalf of the kids was unbelievable,” Haynes says, who has since joined BoomWriter full-time, bringing his personal experience to other schools.
Through the program, guest authors write the first chapter of a story. From there, each student in the class writes what they think should be the next chapter and then submits it online through BoomWriter. Once all of the second chapters are in, BoomWriter uses an algorithm to send them out in chunks of four, allowing students to read and vote on the chapters they enjoy the most. Gradually, students start communicating with each other through creative writing, but in a form that’s fun, fresh and interactive. And because students sign up with an avatar, the site is also safe for everyone to use.
“BoomWriter can be applied easily in the classroom to a lot of different kids,” Haynes says, later admitting that the students who do participate feel an ownership to the story. Even for those whose chapters don’t get chosen, they still voted for the chapters that did, meaning they had their hand in shaping the story.
When Haynes was teaching, his students approached him and asked if they could have all of their names in the book, which is now why each BoomWriter book has acknowledged chapter winners, as well as “additional contributors.” Haynes remembers the moment, saying, “It was so cool. That was their idea, and so we did it.”
The process will be similar for those who participate in the new Writing Club. The main difference, however, is that students can interact not only with others outside of their own class, but also around the world. Even if a school isn’t using the program yet, other students can login and start contributing to competitions. The stories in the competition will range from four to five chapters and, for now, BoomWriter will be running around two competitions at a time.
Tonight, BoomWriter will actually kick off their first competition with an event at Microsoft NERD from 5-7 p.m. Hosted by Kiss 108 FM Radio Personality Billy Costa, the launch will bring local students, educators, government officials and community leaders together. The celebrity guest author, Pebbles from JAM’N 94.5 FM, will be unveiling the book’s story start, and there will be food and drinks. To register, click here.
To see more students getting involved in creative writing is wonderful. Haynes recently heard from a teacher at the Boston Latin School, where a student recently won the first chapter of a competition. “He’s like a rock star around here,” she said. And that’s the feeling we need to continue promoting.