Farwell Elementary School first-grader Liam Jones, center, looks for advice from teammate and sister Annabelle Jones, right, as they present their fictional character to judges and most of the student body assembled in the school’s gym Wednesday morning. Annabelle’s third-grade classmate Maya Goes, left, waits for her turn to take the microphone and talk about Evelyn Bean, their fictional character.

LEWISTON — Farwell Elementary School students got firsthand lessons about publishing and writing in a contest to create a fictional character for a Maine author.

They worked with Gary Savage, the author of “Fletcher McKenzie and the Passage to Whole,” who says that his book and a sequel are being considered for a movie. The book covers are being designed by animators of “The Hobbit” and “Lord of the Rings.”

During a school assembly Wednesday, students presented their characters to a panel of judges.

The characters included:

• “Juilan” (she’s 22, has turned bad, is sassy, steals food, dresses fancy, loves makeup and high heels, wouldn’t be caught dead in sneakers).

• “Mars Inca” (she’s good, kindhearted, from Peru, grows food at the family farm, keeps her family safe).

• “Cole” (was kidnapped as a baby, raised to run fast and catch people to throw them in jail; he’s bad but turns good.)

Savage said his sequel, “Fletcher McKenzie and the Curse of Snow Falls” is expected to be published this fall by HarperCollins.

After the students presented their characters, the audience waited as the scores were tallied.

Then came the announcement: “We have a winner! Lalia!” (The character Lalia is a doctor like her native American mother, Molly Ockett.  She dresses nicely, has long, dark hair. She’s been cursed and was turned into a cat, and she needs to find special clues to break the curse.)

The five winning students who developed Lalia were told, “Come on down!”

Miriam Lemay, Wyatt Tarr, Annora Johnson, Rebecca Jacques and Audrey Bilodeau bounced to the middle of the gymnasium with hoots of, “Yay!” “Awesome!” and “Woohoo!”

They posed for pictures, received congratulations and were interviewed by reporters.

Savage, of Portland, is a writer and nutritionist. The way the character was written by the five students “is the way it’s going to be written into the book and also the potential movie,” he said.

“Fletcher McKenzie and the Passage to Whole” was initially self-published by Westbow Press, a branch of HarperCollins. It was then picked up and is being published by HarperCollins,and is scheduled to be released the same time as his sequel, “Fletcher McKenzie and the Curse of Snow Falls.”

His fantasy stories, based in Western Maine, are about a young boy, Fletcher McKenzie, heir to his family’s food empire. Fletcher’s life is ruled by three wicked aunts who mass-produce unhealthy food. He embarks on a journey through time to Whole, a place of enchantment. Once there, Fletcher realizes Whole is in trouble and he must save it.

Folded into the story are nutrition lessons that youngsters learn through adventure, as well as a Maine history including Molly Ockett, a Native American woman from Western Maine who in colonial times was known as a wise, skilled healer; and Hannibal Hamlin, a native of Paris, Maine, who was Abraham Lincoln’s vice president.

The book is very good, said Farwell Elementary School’s Grammy Carol Christopoulos, a retired teacher and one of the judges.

School librarian Kathy Martin worked with Savage and the students during the project. They got much out of it, she said, including a deeper love of reading.

“Some of these children didn’t like to read,” Martin said, adding that they were handpicked for participation to boost their reading enthusiasm. “They were so excited they got to be a part of this,” she said. “They learned about ‘mazingla,’ a word in the book that means leftovers used to make a stew. They thought that was funny.”

Savage said to watch students “develop, embrace the characters in the book, ask questions, and bring my mind into the thought process of new characters for the sequel was a great exerperience.”

When they get to read his sequel, “I can commit that every single one of you has had a part in the book.”

He asked the 65 students who participated in the contest to stand with him for a group photo. Savage said the photo will become the back cover of the sequel.

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Maine author Gary Savage, center, presents the winners of a contest for his latest book to the judges and Farwell Elementary School students gathered in the gym Wednesday morning.  

The cover of a fiction by Gary Savage of Portland. A new character developed by five Farwell Elementary School students and chosen Wednesday during a school assembly will be included in the book published this fall, Savage said.

A group of 65 Farwell Elementary School students celebrate writing with Maine author Gary Savage on Wednesday. The students competed to develop a character that Savage will include in an upcoming book, “Fletcher McKenzie and the Curse of Snow Falls.” A panel of judges picked the winning character, “Lalia,” developed by five sixth-graders.


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