On August 2 and 3, I hosted The Atlanta Writers Club and Georgia Perimeter College sponsored Youth Creative Writing Camp. Almost a hundred attendees, ages 8-17, converged on the GPC Clarkston Campus for two days of words, ideas and writing.
The day started off with Fiona Hobbs, a professional storyteller, speaker, and writer who has been blind for twenty-three years. In tandem with her spoken presentation, Fiona shared with attendees how technology allows her to write and explained how the loss of sight helps her create.
Marcia McFarland West presented Monday morning. This year songwriting was integrated into the curriculum and Ms. West used her songwriting experience to explain to the attendees the importance of lyrical word choice.
The AWC’s very own Clay Ramsey presented “Imagination, Story and the Classics” on Monday afternoon. Clay imparted his love for literature to the attendees when he used Robert Louise Stevenson’s Treasure Island as a template for plot, character, and story resolution. After the day ended, one of the attendees went straight to the library and checked out Treasure Island. Great job Clay!
Lynda Fitzgerald returned this year and took the attendees through one of the most daunting aspects of novel writing: Plot. Lynda discussed the hows and whys, as well as the element and structure of a plot and why plot is so important. She taught the attendees what makes up a plot, what moves it forward, and how to keep it alive.
Rob Jenkins, a current associate professor of English and Director of The Writers Institute at Georgia Perimeter College, closed the first day of the camp with “10 Things All Writers Should Know.” Rob, a non-fiction writer, brought a unique perspective to the camp when he introduced article writing and journalism.
Michael Varga was Tuesday’s first presenter and he offered his immense knowledge on how to be an effective presenter. He introduced to the attendees the importance of eye contact, projecting your voice and enunciation. The attendees took note and used the new information when reading their work at the Open Mic later in the day.
Emily Lupita Plum, writer, artists and world traveler, used her own photos from her travels to encourage the attendees to take note during their travels as well as during their daily lives to improve their writing. Ms. Plum shared with the attendees that color, sound as well as feelings can improve creative work, and then she had them do a writing activity using color and fun sound words like Whoot!
Adrienne and Dustin Cottrell, the husband and wife duo called Tortoise and Hair, presented songwriting and performing. Their songwriting expertise and distinct sound exposed the attendees to the world of professional music and another avenue for creativity.
This year we integrated mini-workshops into the curriculum. Professional writers and educators created hour long workshops that the attendees could choose from that allowed them to delve deeper into specific areas of writing. Adam Throne led Science Fiction and Fantasy workshops on both Monday and Tuesday. Bill York’s, “Creativity and Business,” Evan Guilford-Blake’s playwriting and Lila Lane’s workshop, “Put Your Skull on the Page,” were all big hits. Lynda Fitzgerald taught, “Seeing With New Eyes” and Emily Lupita Plum used personal life maps to teach attendees to “Write Your Own Story.” Lita Hooper-Simarga led a poetry workshop and Zarle Williams’ workshop, “Beauty or Beast? Creating Memorable Characters,” helped attendees to develop stronger characters. Dee Doanes taught a poetry workshop and she generously donated a $100 prize for the winning poem created in her workshop. The winning poem, “9 Months,” by 12th grader Isoke Lugman, is included in this month’s eQuill.
The Writing Camp ended with an Open Mic. Two attendees performed their own songs and wowed the crowd. The Open Mic was followed by an Awards Ceremony where winning attendees were presented with Grand Prize trophies for fiction and poetry. First place, second place and honorable mention prizes were also awarded. Gift Certificates donated by Eagle Eye Bookstore were also given to those who placed in the contest; donated Tortoise and Hair CD’s were awarded to the winning songwriters. All attendees received a lovely participation award created by Emily Lupita Plum.
In order to keep the Writing Camp free for the attendees, the camp relies on volunteers giving of their time. The general volunteers who showed up and helped make this year a success were commendable. Their energy, positive outlook and enthusiasm for the camp was more than I could have hoped for. I would like to thank RaQia Lowo, Keisa Garvin, Leslie Quigless, Saul Adler, Debra Riggs, Jean Adero, Ron, and Kevin. If I’ve missed anyone due to the excitement of the two days, please accept my sincerest thank you.
The AWC would also like to wish Annika Nilsson, a Youth Camp attendee and 2009 presenter, the best of luck as she leaves for college in Vermont. Annika is a talented writer and presenter—we wish her luck and hope she’ll come back to visit soon.
Recently I was asked what I get for doing the camp. The question temporarily left me speechless—How can you explain to someone the honor you feel when a young person hands you their writing with a shaking hand and asks you to read it and tell them if it’s any good? There are no words to describe the deep feeling of pride when a young person you’ve witnessed grow into a creatively-confident writer thanks you for believing in them. So the only answer I can find for what I get out of doing the camp is that I truly get a whole lot more than I give. I can’t wait to see everyone next year!