I knew it was going to be a good week when she told me after the second day day: "It's so great to really feel like I fit in. I can say something intelligent, and no one looks at me funny... they just say something intelligent back." I can't even tell you, the happiness I felt at that statement.
At the camp, they do various writing exercises each day, and then they work on writing and developing various pieces. They share and truly listen and offer constructive feedback to each other. There's really no other better place for a kid who likes to write.
A few of my favorite exercises that they did this year were:
• Using Newspaper Headlines as a Story Prompt... the students were handed a clipped out newspaper headline (appropriate, of course) and asked to develop a story knowing only the headline.
• Drawing a Line to Represent a Feeling... the students were given a feeling word (joy, bliss, guilt, anger, etc.) and asked to draw a line representing that feeling and then describe what their line meant.
• Writing About a Event without Mentioning the Event... students were given a setting, a character whose perspective the piece must be written from, and an event and had to write about the event without ever saying what it was. Now, in the case of this camp, they gave them the event of murder, but that is not very appropriate for the classroom. But the stories that came out having to tell the story of someone committing murder without mentioning "murder" were pretty amazing.
• Share a Passage from a Book... students were told to choose a passage from a book they had recently read and read it aloud to the class. Then the whole class discussed the author's writing style.
• People Watching... the students were taken on a trolley ride through downtown and asked to make as many observations as they could. Then when they returned, they wrote about they observed. You could certainly do this, by walking your class around the school or taking them and sitting them in a place with other students such as the playground, the gym, the library, or the cafeteria
The whole time, they discussed the process and styles of writing, so much so, that my daughter's final piece (that she shared at a public reading today) was writing about writing. And one little girl who was not in her group loved the piece so much that she even wanted a copy of it. How amazing is it that a girl about age 10 would want a copy of another's child's writing? That's the power of this camp.
Finally, I thought I'd share my daughter's piece as a proud mama should... and I welcome you to share it with your class if you think it would inspire even one writer.
Honesty flows out of me onto the page.
That’s what writing is. Even when writing fiction, nothing is a lie. Writing is the freedom to look at the world and see what it is, even if it’s not pretty. It is a freedom, but it’s not the kind most people want. A writer is a special kind of person, who views the world a different way. It can be confusing, or out there, but it’s truth in its own. If you stand on the other side of the field, you see a different game.
When the words flow together like they should, it’s like music. Every note has a place and a purpose, everything is arranged to order. Then it can become chaotic. Then it can leave the known world and become a new experience. You need order to create chaos. When you hear someone play the piano, it doesn’t sound perfect and neat. It sounds chaotic.
Writing is like that. It always has a rhythm to it, a sequence. A kind of run. When you really get into a good sprint, every little motion matters, every step contributes. It’s not just the big strides; it’s the shifting weight, the stretch forwards and the push back. It all falls together. It’s a beauty in its own.
I say that nothing you write should ever be a lie. I’m not saying that’s an easy task. I feel like writing is the desire to experience everything, the good and the bad. It takes strength to look at oneself and ask: what would it feel like? But that’s what you have to do. That’s all you can do. Even when writing through a character, you only have your emotions to go on. That’s the only reference point you get.
So. What would it feel like? What would it feel like to write?