The story of "The Three Little Lizards" was brought to life Friday morning by a troupe of actors in paint-splattered overalls as the 9-year-old author sat in the audience.
Fourth-grader Jaedon Bartling had no idea his short story would be performed when the Imagination Machine came to Robert Gisler Elementary School in Fountain Valley for a special assembly.
The Imagination Machine is a group of actors who perform students' short stories in front of them.
Watching his story about three lizards and an alligator come to life was "exciting," Jaedon said.
"It was fun. They did a good job performing," he said.
Jaedon was one of 10 students who saw their work acted out on stage. Which students' stories would be chosen was a surprise, said Principal Jennifer Perkins.
"The kids really get excited about it," she said. "It's a really big deal when they get selected."
The assembly, which had students laughing and interacting with the actors on stage, is fun for the students, but it also motivates them to write, Perkins said.
There is no specific subject or guideline for submissions, and students get to pick their favorite creative writing piece to enter, she said.
Staying true to the student's story is "super important," said Imagination Machine cast member Shaun Thomas.
The stories are picked based on creativity, not grammar or spelling, said cast member Erik Johnson.
"We're looking for a child's idea," he said.
Gianni Tello, 6, didn't get his story performed, but said it would be "really special" to be chosen next year.
"I think that it was really cool because they did all these really cool shows that kids have wrote," Gianni said.
After the assembly, Gianni said he is going to write more stories in the hopes of seeing his performed next year.
It's important to "just use your imagination," he said.
That is exactly what the Imagination Machine is about, said cast member Leslie Rivera. While incorporating educational aspects, Rivera said they want kids to know "it's OK to play. It's OK to use your imagination."