Frequent readers of my novellas may have notice a silent, subtle change in my most recent books: instead of listing my novellas in the order that they were published (which made sense when there were only three or four of them), I’ve decided to arrange and market them in a way that can be a bit more helpful to people trying to select their next novella to read or to introduce to their classrooms.
My solution was dividing my novellas by levels (A, B, C, etc). This is the most current list (July 2021):
LEVEL A: Beginner
Lars Romam Odit
Mercurius Infans Horribilis
Aulus Anser (forthcoming)
LEVEL B: Advanced Beginner
The Familia Mala Trilogy:
Familia Mala: Iuppiter et Saturnus
Duo Fratres: Familia Mala Vol. II
Pandora: Familia Mala Vol. III
LEVEL C: Low Intermediate
Clodia: Fabula Criminalis
The Io Puella Fortis Series
Vol. I: Io et Tabellae Magicae
Vol. II: Io et Monstrum Horrificum
LEVEL D: High Intermediate
Puer Ex Seripho Series:
Vol. I: Perseus et Rex Malus
Vol II. Perseus et Medusa
Vox in Tenebris
Eques Viridis Series
Vol. I: Eques Viridis: Tres Chartulae
Filia Regis et Monstrum Horribile
LEVEL E: Advanced (Tiered Readers)
Daedalus et Icarus: A Tiered Latin Reader
Reckless Love: The Story of Pyramus and Thisbe
The Mysterious Traveler: A Medieval Play about St. Nicholas: A Tiered Reader
Nice and neat, right? Upon closer inspection, however, questions may arise. For instance, what exactly is the difference between a beginner and an advanced beginner? What is “intermediate?” What is “high intermediate?” What precise, highly scientific algorithm did I invent to so precisely categorize such disparate works?
Let me explain.
I original envisioned basing the levels on raw data–namely unique word count. Novellas with higher unique word counts are in the higher levels and novellas with lower word counts are in the lower levels. Simple, right? Well, I ran into a bit of a wall with that scheme. Unique word count is important when I write my novellas. I strive very hard to shelter my vocabulary as much possible when I write, and I try to squeeze out even possible bit of character development, plot, humor, suspense, history, culture, and entertainment that the limited vocabulary and length of the novellas will permit. In my own classroom, however, I made a discovery that made me scrap the entire plan: my students weren’t evaluating the relative ease or difficulty of the novellas they were reading by the raw word count (which is the way the novellas were arranged on the library shelf). Novellas with extremely low word counts were being passed by as “a bit too difficult,” while other novellas with higher unique word counts were popular with even my weakest readers.
I decided to rethink the levels, and scrapped the “scientific” approach I was trying to use. Instead, I just went with my gut.
What is a “beginner” novella? These are books that I envision my weakest readers being able to read with acceptable fluency by mid-Spring semester in my classroom–which is approximately the time of year that my sustained silent reading program is in full swing in Latin I. Advanced beginners are students with less than a year of Latin, but who process the language in class much more quickly and can handle a more complex narrative or high unique word count.
Levels C and D–the Intermediate levels–were written with my Latin II and III students in mind. The narratives are more complex and the vocabulary load has been increased.
Level E isn’t really a level for novellas, because I don’t have any in that level, and I don’t really have any plans to write any in that difficulty range any time soon. This level is reserved for my tiered readers, which aren’t really part of my sustained silent reading program. They attempt to make Latin literature accessible to those who either want to read it or must read it (for a class, for instance). I use them in my upper level classes from time to time, and they were largely an experiment. I have a few more in manuscript (mostly things I’ve created for my students), but, as these books are incredibly labor-intensive to produce, I don’t plan on having any of the manuscripts complete in the foreseeable future.
What have I learned as an author seeing my books divided into levels?
I need more easy books. At my school, the norm is for students to take three years of Latin (many only take two, however, and some take more). The most popular levels? A and B (and maybe a couple books in C). When I first saw the level divisions, I noticed that they were lopsided in the wrong direction–towards difficult, complex texts. I like writing complex stories. I like flexing my Latinitas. Ideally though, students who want to read one of my books shouldn’t only have a choice of two or three on a particular level, and weaker readers are going to need more support and a greater variety of books to choose from. I have dozens of truly excellent novellas written by truly excellent authors and Latinists that go unread each year because they are too difficult for quick, easy reading (which requires 95%-98% known vocabulary).
In short, I need far more Level A and B novellas.
I’m not talking two or three more per level. I’m taking eight, ten, a dozen more.
I want a whole shelf of Level A and B novellas, on a wider variety of topics (I’m working on it–I just love mythology so much!). And combine that with the fact that this next year I’m teaching Latin I almost exclusively, I am dedicating the majority of my upcoming projects to filling out those A and B levels (though I have an intermediate level project in the works that I’m excited about as well).
So, all that to say, the levels that I recently instituted are not carefully and scientifically calculated. They are just a rough guide, but hopefully a necessary and a helpful one.
P.S. I will be updating my Publications page soon!