Writing Stories With Billy Bob Thornton

Billy Bob Thornton has written a lot of things – Oscar-winning screenplays, best-selling books, chart-topping songs. He sometimes writes on his own, sometimes with collaborators. Back in April, he wrote a story with a new group of co-authoros…14 teens and young adults with special needs who are in my weekly creative writing class.

Billy and the Creative Writing Class celebrating their amazing story

Billy and the Creative Writing Class celebrating their amazing story

During our class time, it was clear that Billy was enjoying himself.

_DSC0863

As the story took shape, it was obvious that he was impressed.

_DSC0855

At the end of the class, it was apparent that he was moved and inspired.

_DSC0866

Turns out, he was even more impressed and moved that I thought he was because one of the first things he did when he got back in the music studio was to write and record a song based on his experiences with our students.

How cool is that?

The title of the song is “They Don’t See What We See” and it will have its debut on Monday, August 17, 2015 at 7:00 p.m. when The Boxmasters return to Huntsville to perform this song – just for us. The song will be released on a future Boxmasters album.

Not only has Billy chosen Merrimack Hall for the premiere of this new song, he is refusing any fees for his performance, making the event a huge fund raising opportunity for our non-profit organization. I hope you will join us for what is sure to be an amazing concert! Tickets are available at www.merrimackhall.com.

Want to read the story our students and Billy wrote together? I thought so!

Billy gave the class the following story-starter:

Annabelle and Scotty are twins who want to open their own school, one where students are allowed to study any subject they want. But…they have to figure out how to raise the money to start this school.

Our students took that ball and ran, collaborating with Billy to create this amazing story (note – if you see a word misspelled or a sentence structure that is out of order, that’s how the story was dictated or specified by our students; also note that some of our students took offense to Billy’s proclamation that he was a fan of the Arkansas Razorbacks, which is reflected in their story):

Scotty, Annabelle and The Freedom School

Written by: Billy Bob Thornton, Chelsie Atchley, Zoe Thompson, Anna Ryane Roth, Tristan Cranford, Kate Burnette, Dana Anderson, Cami Hladky, Laura Beth Matus, Maria Rivette, Katie Slaton, Eleanor Saft, Carolyn Snoddy, Jeffrey Anderson, Connor Furber

Scotty and Annabelle are 13-year-old twins who live in North Calorina. They have lived all over the world – from Germany to Italy to New York and even moved to Alabama once.

Scotty and Annabelle had an idea for a new type of school, one that would allow each student to study only the subjects that they were interested in learning about. They named this new school The Freedom School.

Scotty and Annabelle had wonderful ideas for the subjects that would be taught at The Freedom School. Algebra, theatre, dance, visual art, horseback riding, movie studio and broadway cast, history, choir, theatre, English and biology were just some of the subjects they wanted The Freedom School to offer. But by allowing each student to choose their own subject to study, the twins knew there would be many exciting subjects they hadn’t even thought about…like concept car design.

There was just one problem with their idea for The Freedom School…they had no money to pay it. They estimated that the school would cost $5 million. Where could a couple of 13-year-olds from North Calorina come up with that kind of money? They needed a fund raising campaign.

When they told their friends about their concept for The Freedom School, everyone’s reaction was, “I love that school!” All of their friends agreed to help them raise money by being on a committee.

Then, the twins asked their parents for help. They asked their dad if he would help them get a loan from the bank. Their father said, “Sure, I will,” and signed all the papers. But the bank wouldn’t give them the total $5 million, so they set out to raise the rest.

Someone they know who works at Disneyworld told them they could design and build a new ride for the theme park and they could keep all the money people paid to go on the mine-train ride they devised. They took a plane to Orlando, rode a bus from the airport to the hotel, another bus from the hotel to the theme park and then stood in long lines to see the existing attractions. They worked on their design but got distracted and spent $60.88 to take a side trip to Mexico.

When they returned from Mexico, Scotty said, “Back to business, Annabelle. We’ve got money to raise!”

First, they had a lemonade stand where small lemonades were $.25, larges were $1.00 and the lemonade special was pink lemonade with a slice of lemon to make it extra sour. They served cookies with the lemonade – chocolate chip, sugar, any type of cookie you can think of – and made $600.

Their friend, Tristan, offered to make a film called “Tristan’s Adventures, Starring the Cartoon All-Stars.” All the money made from this film would go towards the school. The movie was based on a dream Tristan had about travelling from Alaska to Canada, ending in Northern California, where fairies, pixies and goblins were featured.

Scotty and Annabelle got local TV stations to invite them on the air to tell the community about The Freedom School and donations started coming in from everyone.

Then they had a bake sale, which all of their friends helped them put together. They didn’t make much money on the bake sale and, feeling discouraged, Annabelle said, “We can’t do this. By ourselves, we can do nothing!”

Their friends said, “That’s not right, Annabelle! You have us to help you. Together, we can do it!”

Their friends organized a charity baseball game, which included T-ball for the younger kids. Every time someone made it to first base, a $2,000 donation was made. Annabelle said, “Who in the world will donate that much money every time someone gets to first base?” Her friend Chelsea said confidently, “Don’t worry…somebody will!”

Atlanta Braves player Freedy Freeman came to the charity game to help out because he’s a really nice guy. Someone suggested they could invite some of the Arkansas Razorbacks players to help too, but Scotty and Annabelle didn’t think much of the Razorbacks.

Katie told the twins, “Actually, I’ve been thinking of how I could help you raise money. I’ve decided to use $99,000 of my money to hire Billy Bob Thornton to direct my movie, “Katie’s Big Break.”

The twins thought this was a great idea. When Katie called Billy to offer him the job, he said, “I will donate all the money you pay me to The Freedom School!” The twins were so happy!

Connor told the twins that he had the coolest, greatest idea. Connor was willing to build a new concept car – a Super Car – for their school to sell. The car – called the Nissan GTR 2.0 – was faster than a Lamborghini and had a V12 Engine. The Nissan GTR 2.0 was worth $150,000 and Connor donated the money to the school.

Finally, Annabelle and Scotty met their goal so they threw a party to celebrate. They sent text messages to all of their friends inviting them to the party. Lemonade and cookies, served to the guests on trays carried by waiters, were the refreshments. At the party, everyone did the Hokey Pokey dance, which it was decided would be a subject taught at The Freedom School. The Freedom School opened and kids from all over North Calorina enrolled. Everyone was welcome at The Freedom School…as long as they weren’t a Razorback!

_DSC0913