Recently, I enjoyed teaching a one-week creative writing camp for teens at Katonah Art Center. For three hours each afternoon, six middle and high school students joined me to learn new ways to discover story inspiration, create unique characters, and explore writing in different genres of fiction. By the end of our first afternoon of writing together, the campers had already bonded. These kids did not know each other previously, yet they all had something in common—the love of story writing.
Each afternoon, I presented new challenges to these enthusiastic writers. We used images, objects, colors and dialogue as the catalyst for writing realistic fiction, fantasy, historical fiction or mystery stories. Day by day, the campers gained confidence in their writing skills, verbal presentation and ability to combine new ideas with imagination and experience to create interesting fiction. Each young writer left on Friday afternoon, proudly clutching her notebook filled with stories, after a week of self-expression, camaraderie and fun.
I wish there had been a writing camp when I was a kid. My one summer camp experience was at a day camp on Long Island. I remember that the camp had the word “Creative” in the name and my neighbor, Charles, attended every summer. My mother finally relented the summer before I started sixth grade. She signed my brother and me up for only two days per week, Tuesdays and Thursdays, during the month of July. I have fond memories of my brief camp experience. Despite the long bus ride each morning and afternoon, I looked forward to every minute of that day camp. We had horseback riding, trampoline, arts and crafts, swimming, hamburgers and Italian ices for lunch, and free time on the playground. I met girls from across Queens and Long Island and made new friends (two of my new friends became pen pals during the school year).
The campers in my age group even had a sleepover one night during the last week of July. I was excited to borrow Charles’ sleeping bag and sit around the campfire singing songs and roasting marshmallows. We used flashlights to light our way to the bathrooms to brush our teeth. I remember relishing my independence and new experiences. I would have liked to sign up again for day camp for five days each week for the entire summer. Unfortunately, my brother cried every morning as Mom put us both on the camp bus during those fleeting July weeks. He was perfectly fine once we arrived at the camp each day but my mother imagined him sobbing and miserable so she did not extend our day camp experience into August.
It is interesting to reflect back and see how clearly this one summer day camp experience still resonates. Even at a young age, I enjoyed meeting new people and trying new experiences. That sense of wonder coupled with observation and imagination fueled my story writing. Every child has interests and talents to be nurtured and explored.
Specialty camps abound these days for campers who enjoy music, dance, sailing, circus arts or robots. At the Katonah Art Center, campers can try a different specialty each week including outdoor painting, pottery, jewelry making, and fashion design. You are never too young or too old to explore your creative side! I look forward to meeting more teen writers at KAC for the next Writer’s Voice creative writing camp for Aug. 27 – 31.
Kim Kovach teaches fiction writing for adults and creative writing for elementary, middle and high school students. Learn more at kimkovachwrites.com.