New Commons Project at MHS

Editor Tara Weikum and MHS student Hanna Lavenson

The New Commons Project is a collection of 24 cultural works with the purpose of having community discussions, lectures, and other presentations around these works developed by the University of Maine at Farmington. They solicited nominations for works to be included in this collection and received over 150 suggestions of books, poems, music, artwork, movies, and other works for consideration.

This year, 12 works were selected for inclusion in The New Commons Project, two of which were nominated by Messalonskee High School students. On Monday, February 26, UMF and Messalonskee High School hosted the editor of Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai, which was nominated by MHS junior Hanna Lavenson. Seen through the eyes of 10-year-old Há, this young adult novel-in-verse is a fictionalized account of the author’s family’s experience in Saigon at the end of the Vietnam War and their lives as immigrants in the United States.  

The editor visit included a summary of the book and introduction of the cultural significance of the work delivered by Hanna Lavenson. Students then had a rare opportunity to hear from a New York City editor, Tara Weikum, Vice-President and Editorial Director at HarperCollins.  Ms. Weikum spoke about her experience editing the book, which has since been named a New York Times bestseller, a National Book Award Winner, and a Newbery Honor Book. Students heard about details specific to the publishing of this particular book as well as the extensive process that occurs for a book to be published.

The New Commons Project is still accepting nominations for its second round. You can learn more about the project, including prior nominations and how to nominate a work, at

written by Sylvia Jadczak, MHS Librarian, and Kellie Sanborn, MHS English Teacher

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