2.5 million words:
A film about A Novel Idea

2.5 Million Words:
A film about A Novel Idea

Our wordy team

Kristen House

Chief Executive Muse

Tama McCoy

Chief of Wordy Operations

She's the mastermind and the muse behind this operation. After teaching college writing for nealry 10 years, Kristen discovered that her students' ACT scores were going up, but their writing skills were sinking.  That's when ANI was born.


She holds an M.Phil in Philosophy and English Literature from University College Cork, Ireland, and a B.A. in English and Art History from Belmont University. 


Kristen writes fiction, non-fiction, and poetry in San Francisco where she lives with her husband and three kids.  She is also the Global Content Designer at PayPal in addition to running ANI with Tama.  It's a full, busy, wordy life!

Tama is a lifelong lover of words. She devours novels, and is especially enchanted by an author's first published book. It's a little bit of perfect serendipity, then, that she is now the Chief of Operations for a company whose mission is to help young people pen their very first novels. Tama is our go-to cheerleader, raising money for student scholarships, rallying the community around our talented students, an waving the ANI banner wherever she goes.


Tama is responsible for developing partnerships with schools, coordinating giving efforts with corporations, and managing teacher development.  


Contact Tama if you'd like to know more about ANI. 

Wendy Martin

Director of Wordy Operations

Erica Ciccarone

Wordy Instructor


Wendy’s love affair with words began at the age of six when she and her mother exchanged daily letters on Strawberry Shortcake stationery. This cultivated a love of personal expression (not to mention, baking) which led to a degree from the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, Los Angeles. Upon graduation, Wendy co-founded a non-profit theater company and partnered with Big Sisters to give at-risk girls a voice and an unusual creative outlet.


Soon, Wendy joined WriteGirl where she mentored teens in writing, publishing, and performing on stage. Then, in 2007, she received her teaching credential and was awarded the Outstanding Student Teacher Award from California State University's Michael D. Eisner School of Education.  


After teaching at the middle and high school levels, Wendy relocated to Nashville with her husband, Steven. Together, under the direction of their two young sons, they are developing a series of children's books inspired by classic literature.

Erica Ciccarone contributes writings to Nashville Scene, Chapter 16, and Nashville Arts Magazine and has published fiction in several literary magazines. Erica contributes features to Nashville Public Radio and won an Associated Press award for Best Writing of a feature-length story in 2016. Teaching every age group inspires her creative practice and nurtures her love of learning. She holds an MFA from the New School Creative Writing Program (’07) and a BA in English from Loyola University New Orleans (’04). She is at work on a novel.


When Erica isn't writing or teaching, she makes quilts, works with social justice activists in Nashville, and sees as much visual art as possible. She also volunteers on the executive board of Launch Pad, an organization that provides temporary shelter for unhoused young adults in the LGBTQ community. Erica loves gardening, lying in the hammock, and watching the activity around her bird feeders.

Courtney Bellush

Wordy Instructor


Elizabeth Twork

Wordy Admin


Elizabeth has been ANI's secret weapon for years. She's the warrior doing battle with unweildy manuscripts so they can be formatted and published. She's the friendly words in an email when you're stressed out about which class you've signed up for. And now, she's our full-time wordy administrator, keeping the wheels of ANI moving. 


Thank you for keeping our pencils sharpened, Elizabeth!

Courtney is a seasoned writer, music critic, and just finished co-leading A Novel Idea's summer novel-writing courses. Courtney has published with the Nashville Scene, the award-winning Belmont Vision, the Belmont Feed, and has worked with Rolling Stone contributor, Adam Gold. Courtney loves spending her time paving the creative way for other aspiring writers.



Julian Vaca

Wordsmith & Wordy Instructor


Kyle Martindale
Wordy Instructor


Julian R. Vaca was born in Long Beach, California. He moved to Tennessee in the early 2000s, where he later graduated high school from Nashville School of the Arts. While there, he won a Regional Emmy Award for a short film he wrote and directed. Julian went on to graduate from Watkins College of Art, Design & Film, where he earned a BFA.



Julian's sophomore novel, Running From Lions, won the Novel Rocket Award for Best Young Adult book in 2013, and his latest title, The Surgers!, was a top pick in Amazon.com's Breakthrough Novel Award Contest. Check out the book trailer here. All three of Julian's titles have been best sellers and highlighted in The Tennessean and, most recently, Nashville Nation.


Julian lives in Nashville with his wife and three children where he is hard at work on his next book.



Kyle Martindale is a poet, writer and teacher. He has taught three years in Metro Nashville at Antioch High School, and is pursuing his Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Writing at San Diego State University.  




The ANIfesto

More about ANI

At A Novel Idea, we believe in the transformative power of language.  We believe that words can change minds, change hearts, change our lives, and change the world.


That's a tall order for anyone, let alone a room full of kids.  But we don't let that stop us.  ANI believes that non-comparative measures of learning are the best way to show growth.  We believe that a healthy dose of passion and a seemingly ludicrous task are just the remedy for our multiple-choice society.  We believe that a few well-placed dreams can alter the trajectory of a young person's life.


During a series of small explosions, ANI students write a for-real commercial-length novel, complete with protagonists and antagonists at each other's throats, gut-wrenching plot twits, and achingly beautiful prose.  Hundreds of writers have completed a  novel with ANI.  It's a radically different way to teach writing, language, and grammar.


Because of ANI's success, we now offer after-school creative writing clubs, classes for adults, a class to help you write your memoir, and a whole bunch of one-day classes about creativity.  If you have questions, we have answers in our FAQ below.  

Frequently asked questions

You have questions.  We have answers.


ANI thinks outside the box and offers wild and wonderful programs.  It's unlike any educational program you've encountered before, and something that novel is sure to generate some questions.  Here are the queries we come across most often.



Do I need a laptop in ANI's classes?


No, you do not!  In fact, if you have a laptop and you insist on bringing it, you probably won't even take it out of your bag.  I'm an old-school professor (despite having only been in the classroom for around 10 years), and technology distracts me.  If you do bring your laptop, you'll be tempted to update your Facebook status.  Or check your email.  Or both!  So don't bring it. ;)



I don't know what to write about.  Can I join?


Of course you can!  ANI is a supportive community of writers who want to help each other.  So bring your enthusiasm and little else.  We'll generate enough ideas for all of us and then some.



Do I need to take Jumpstart before A Novel Idea?


No, Jumpstart is not a prerequisite for A Novel Idea!  You may sign up directly for the longer class.  However, if you want to take Jumpstart before A Novel Idea, what you learn will benefit you greatly.



The Pen & Paper Club isn't offered at my school.  What should I do?


First, you should contact ANI and tell us where you go to school.  The Pen & Paper Clubs are offered in a limited number of schools in the Spring of 2013, and will be expanded for school year 2013-2014.  We'd love to add your school to our list.


Why do you only accept electronic applications and payments?


We'll admit it: we are nerds.  Switching our registration and payment processing to automated electronic solutions allows us to more accurately predict class size, collect the information we need to quickly organize cohorts, and process payments efficiently.  Our Chief Executive Muse is a writer for PayPal, and an advocate for technology.  If you have questions about paying via PayPal with your credit or debit card or your PayPal account, feel free to get in touch. You don't need a PayPal account to complete payment through PayPal, either.





Kids love ANI

Parents love ANI



"ANI has provided me with a community of writers and literary lovers to encourage one another and geek-out about our passion for writing together." - Savannah Patton

"Kristen House is selfless in treating every single student as her own child, and she provides a personal experience in perfecting and practicing your craft. When you first step foot in an ANI classroom, you'll feel as though you belong.  As though you've just stepped into a grand conference that heralds the rest of your life."​ - Blake Bouza

"ANI is support-based, encouraging, exciting, and fun!" - Olivia Laskowski

"It is amazing to me that I have already finished one novel - have it sitting in my hands - and I am so close to finishing my second.  I never could have done that without this class."  - Hannah Oakley



“Kristen is able to bring out the best in kids . . . in writing!! Even the sullen teenager will blossom and share in her midst! My 11, 13 and 15 year olds have attended ANI with absolutely stunning results.” - Becky Sharpe



​"My daughter has always loved to write, but Kristen gave her the confidence and tools she needed to complete the daunting task of writing a novel. What an incredible experience for a rising ninth grader!!  Kristen made the class fun, challenging and always upbeat.  The ultimate compliment came when my daughter said, "I wish I could have her for a teacher.  She even makes sentence structure lessons fun." - Stephanie Brakefield

Teachers love ANI

Adult students love ANI

“Kristen came to my 8th grade Language Arts and simply lit up my students with her enthusiasm, passion and knowledge about how to teach writing the novel. An innovative and brilliant instructor!” - Jennifer M. Moran

“A Novel Idea is a ground-breaking concept. As a writer and educator, I have seen and utilized a host of programs to engage students and encourage ambitious, creative writing. I have never seen anything like this.

Kristen is a tireless, intelligent, and remarkable teacher. I fully expect to see her making waves on a national level.” Dianna Calareso Sawyer

"I took an adult version of A Novel Idea last winter with a wonderful group of fearless women. Kristen was a real trooper! She moved us from cowering under our insecurities to arm wrestling our inner critic down so that we could make real head way on our projects. Do yourself a favor: drag out the current version of your dream novel, (even if it is on a sticky note!) and enroll! If kids can do it---we can too!" - Wendi Dalby