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Great Valley Writing Project pupils produce book for Sequoia library
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Barbara Damewood talked about writing the same way she would to any student in a writer’s workshop. 
She talked about how to find one’s literary voice. And she championed the idea of those with the bravery to pen their own style to share the thoughts and ideas with others. 
No, this wasn’t the Iowa Writer’s Workshop and a classroom full of graduate level scribes. It was a bunch of middle-schoolers in a portable at Sequoia Elementary after school. 
The results, in a sense, were essentially the same. 
Clutched in Damewood’s hand Tuesday morning during an assembly at Sequoia Elementary held once every trimester to honor students for things like perfect attendance and honor roll was a hardcover book. It was clad in the dark orange and black of the school’s tiger mascot and full of the work of the students of her Great Valley Writing Project class. 
For six weeks a group of middle-school students wrote and rewrote and rewrote even more. Their collection of stories – ideas shaped through the writing experience – forever bound into a book that will be available for students to read at the Sequoia library. 
“It was a great experience it helped a lot with my writing,” said Sequoia student Diana Valencia. It improved a lot during that time there. At first I agreed to go not knowing what it was that we were going to be doing, but it turned out to be fun. 
“We wrote – a lot. But keeping on (doing it) made it better.”
Valencia was one of the students’ whose literature was featured in the book. 
Also featured was Serenity Fuentes, who also claimed the program – a non-profit that aims to improve the literary skills of the students that it reaches out to – helped polish her grammar and aid in turning once-dreaded essays into something that she can now handle. 
Like other longtime community after school programs, the Great Valley Writing Project relies on volunteers to help staff its sites throughout San Joaquin, Stanislaus and some foothill communities. 
That team spirit, Damewood said, comes out in the students when they’re working together to digest heavy material or offer criticism on another’s work. Two guys who might have been fighting before are now friends. 
“This wouldn’t work without the community of volunteers,” she said. “They encourage and establish a set of principles that helps everybody get the most of out of their writing – that’s exactly what a good teacher is supposed to do.”