On August 4th and 5th, with the support of The Atlanta Writers Club and Georgia Perimeter College, I had the pleasure of leading a two-day youth creative writing camp. Thirty attendees, the youngest ten, the oldest sixteen, spent both days learning the tools of writing and putting them into practice.
On day one, they learned the difference between story and plot, how to develop strong characters, dialogue and setting. A writing exercise, using prompts, followed. After a brief break, fiction categories were presented. Flash Fiction, Short Story, Novella and Novel were defined and discussed. Then we discussed genres: Science Fiction, Fantasy, Graphic Novels, and Literary Fiction. The attendees used books they’ve read as examples for each category. The level and amount of reading done by the young participants was inspiring.
After lunch, Emily Lupita Plum (Water and Stone: A Story in Poetry from Japan) did a poetry presentation using excerpts from well-known poems. One young attendee read “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night” and I swear I heard Dylan Thomas applaud. Emily then explained the Haiku and the attendees wrote their own. Not being a poet myself, I was in awe at the quality of the writing and the enthusiasm even the most reluctant among the bunch displayed.
Marc Fitten, editor of The Chattahoochee Review and a wonderful writer whose first novel will be released in the Spring of ’09, was our final presenter for day one. Marc went for an interactive presentation and took the attendees on a tour of The Chattahoochee Review’s offices where they were able to see how a literary magazine is created from beginning to end. The older attendees asked me later for a list of more literary journals.
Melissa, a Chattahoochee Review intern, told the attendees about The Fountain Pen, a poetry/prose community for young writers (ages sixteen and up). The Fountain Pen is by invitation only based on a writing sample. The interactive site is innovative and smart. It is a wonderful opportunity for all young writers.
The first day concluded with one-on-one meetings between me and attendees who wanted feedback on the writing they created that day.
The second day opened big with Marty Aftewicz, the president of the AWC, and George Weinstein (The Caretaker, The Five Destinies of Carlos Moreno and Provenance), the vice-president of the AWC. Marty and George bravely chose to do an interactive presentation on how to write a novel, step-by-step. They introduced the three-act story structure complete with a hero, villain and minor character. Many attendees developed the story later in the day or created their own using the outline provided. Marty and George also talked about their story Jake and the Tiger Flight, an adventure story based on the Tiger Flight Formation Flight Team and the Young Eagles Program based in Rome, Georgia.
The morning continued with attendees learning how to participate in peer-response circles. They then listened to a short story from a youth author and critiqued it as a group. Their responses were quite insightful and if the writer had been in the room, he would have learned a lot about his own work. Attendees were put in groups and commented on each other’s work.
Michael Varga shared techniques on how to be a strong public speaker, then the attendees showed their professionalism when they read their work, integrating what they’d learned.
The afternoon continued with the proper way for attendees to submit their writing and a list of submission sites. The attendees were engaged and asked wonderful questions that reflected their interest in seeing their writing published.
An open reading and awards ceremony concluded the writing camp. Awards were given in the Fiction, Poetry and Haiku categories. One attendee who is working on her third novel deservedly received the Most Imaginative Award. The Best in Fiction and Poetry Awards were beautiful lockets made by Emily Plum based on her Lupita line of jewelry and gift cards generously donated by the Eagle Eye Book Shop.
The AWC 2008 Youth Creative Writing Camp was a success and I want to thank all the presenters for the time and enthusiasm they showed in sharing what they know about writing. I also want to thank all of the attendees. The writing talent was evident and I look forward to reading what each and every one creates. Hope to see everyone at the next AWC Youth Creative Writing Camp.