Developing Storytellers

 In Blog

Michele Brennan worries whether young adults do enough reading these days.

“We need to get them reading more. I don’t care how they read it, electronically or on ink and paper,” she said.

The vice president of marketing and communications for Bridgeport National Bindery, an Agawam-based company that offers services such as digital print-on-demand book production and book binding, figured out a way to spark their interest in not only reading, but to take it a step further to writing.

A first-of-its-kind program to encourage young students to become authors is her brainchild.

The Future Authors Program began in January as a pilot project at Agawam Junior High School. About 300 eighth graders are participating. Each week, the students attend special classes in the library to write, learn lessons on related subjects and even critique each other’s works of fiction or nonfiction. The aim is for each student to publish a 24-page manuscript in print and online through the help of Bridgeport and, an online publisher.

“I remind the students that this program will prepare them for many things. People judge you on what you say, how you speak and how you use your words,” she said.

She got the ears of Agawam Mayor Richard A. Cohen and Agawam school Superintendent William P. Sapelli last fall to pitch the program. Both enthusiastically supported the idea.

The program has already seen local authors come in and speak to the students about how they got interested in writing, the process they used to write a book and tips for creating their works. Author Robert Carey of Westfield recently spoke to students about his novel, “The Song of Freyer,” about a sixth century hero resurrecting a fallen empire. One of the first things Robert told the group was that he wished the program had been available when he was in school.

Michele’s passion for the written word is obvious when she speaks about improving young people’s interest in it and about her work with Bookbuilders of Boston, a nonprofit organization that joins book publishing and manufacturing folks to “offer a forum to exchange information, learn new technologies and promote improvements in the quality of books.”

One of Bookbuilders’ most noteworthy activities is running the annual New England Book Show, which honors the accomplishments of New England publishers, printers and graphic designers. Michele has served as chair of the show since 2010. The show, which is the oldest, elite book show in the country, has members that include heavy-hitter higher education publishers such as Pearson, Houghton Mifflin and Harvard University Press. Michele also serves on the board of Bookbuilders of Boston.

“Chairing the show has provided me with access to many professionals in the publishing industry. I have learned how important these people are in creating books that teach us how to do most everything we need to know in life,” she said. “I aim to make sure they can continue to create books so we can continue to learn as we age.”

The Future Authors Program is developing storytellers to keep that learning going. Her plan is to roll out the program nationally in 2015.

Now that’s something to write about.

To learn more about Michele Brennan and Bridgeport Bindery, visit

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