James Franco requests Paly students' short stories

Actor James Franco visited Palo Alto High School English classes today to give short presentations in which he requested that Paly students submit either short stories or anecdotes about a high school experience to be incorporated into his novel in the works.

Submissions may be published in Franco’s novel, which is about the high school experience in Palo Alto.

“I am interested in stories specifically about Palo Alto, about being in high school,” Franco stated in a flier he distributed to the classes he visited. “These stories can involve friends, enemies, parents or strangers. Crime, academic achievements, fights with boyfriends or girlfriends, greatest hopes, greatest disappointments, etc.”

The submissions, preferably less then 14 pages, although one page will suffice, have the possibility of being published, although Franco assures that nothing will be published without the author’s consent.

“I am most interested in intense experiences,” Franco said in a presentation he made to American Classics teacher Kirk Hinton’s sixth period class. “This can be a positive, frightening, life-changing, or sad experience,” the flier states.

Many students are interested in participating, but aren’t yet sure of an experience they want to share with Franco.

“I think it sounds kind of cool and I want to be published, but I have no idea what I’m writing about,” junior Jackie Rossiter said. “It seems like he’s asking for really dramatic stories, but things that happen at school often begin as minor incidents that build up into something larger.”

Other students are also excited about the writing opportunity and the possibility of being published.

“I think that it’s a good creative writing opportunity for those of us who are not in a creative writing English class,” junior Vrinda Khanna said. “The fact that it’s for James Franco might motivate some people and might inspire them to pursue creative writing. They might find that they enjoy it and they might continue to write for their own pleasure.”

Selections should be submitted to students’ own English teachers or to Film Composition Literature teacher Kaye Paugh by Tuesday, Dec. 18. All selections must be double spaced in 12 point double Times New Roman or Courier font.

Furthermore, Franco will begin working with about 15 journalism students from Paly’s newspaper publication, The Campanile, to focus on experiences of living in the Silicon Valley. Research will be conducted on many Silicon Valley companies based locally, including Apple, Google, and Hewlett Packard, Franco says.

“They [students of The Campanile] are doing journalistic work to help [create the background] atmosphere for the story,” Franco said. “I’m writing a novel, its fiction, but I want it to be set in a realistic context in a Palo Alto that people recognize.”

Franco says his novel will be set in the early 1990’s and 2007. In order to do so, Franco is also gathering information from unofficial Palo Alto historian Steve Staiger and the PAPD to capture major events in Silicon Valley history.

“I’m hoping to somehow connect Palo Alto to the Palo Alto of 10 years ago,” Franco said.

For now, Franco’s novel serves primarily as his thesis, as Franco is currently majoring in creative writing at UCLA. However, Franco says he will continue to pursue creative writing after completing his current novel.

“I find a lot of satisfaction in writing,” Franco said. “I love the process, [and] the people I interact with when I’m writing. I don’t think I’ll ever stop acting. It is just that my primary focus is now writing.”

Currently, Franco is also in the process of applying to a MFA (Master of Fine Arts) program, as well as the Wallace Stegner Fellowship at Stanford University.

Aside from his thesis work, Franco says he is working on several other media projects, one of which is a short film based on a short story called Red Leaves by William Faulkner. In January, Franco will be working with director Gus Van Sant and actor Sean Penn in a movie titled Milk in San Francisco. The movie will be based on the true story of gay-rights activist and politician Harvey Milk.

Franco’s most recent movie, “The Pineapple Express,” will be out in theaters August of 2008.

Voice reporter Connie Yang contributed to this story.