Last year, my friend Elizabeth Valente approached me with an idea to co-teach a summer writing camp for young writers. She teachers middle grades at Trinity with Clint, and she's a great language arts teacher. She knew of a number of students in seventh and eighth grades who loved Creative Writing, and she knew I loved teaching it.
So, we hashed out a plan for the week-long writing camp, and the first year was a great success. This year we modified our format a bit as well as our location, and the first two days have been fabulous.
We start each day at 9 with Sacred Writing Time, a time in which we provide the students with a prompt. They can follow the suggestion, but they don't have to. After that, we have a mini-lesson, and then most of the day is devoted to time for students to write individually, a time in which we write ourselves and also offer our advice and suggestions individually. Students also have time to break into small groups to share their work, their ideas, their triumphs and frustrations.
For those of you who like a writing challenge, I thought I'd share our first two Sacred Writing Time prompts. Enjoy!
Day One: Mining the Heart (well, actually this was our mini-lesson, but it's like a SWT activity)
On a sheet of paper, draw a heart that nearly fills the page. Inside the heart list things you love, things you feel passionately about. If you'd like you can write things you despise or dislike outside the heart. Hopefully, doing this will inspire you with writing ideas. (Mine is below)
Day Two: Where I'm From poem
First, list any objects or people or sayings or events that are integral to who you are. Think back to childhood, to your family life, to hobbies and friends, to teen years and early adult years. Then find a way to organize those things into stanzas. Try to be specific and evoke a sense of who you are.
Here is a snippet of a sample we read:
i'm from cub scouts
and bazooka bubblegum,
from "squeeze my finger"
and "just try it--you'll like it,"
excerpt taken from poem by Hallie Herz in Nancie Atwell's book Naming the World: A Year of Poems and Lessons
Here is my poem (still a rough draft):
I am from Greiner Gardens
which once boasted three of the vegetable variety
but now just one--
you count flower beds and
thereby can revert (comfortably) to the plural.
I am from Rich and Laura
who had--as he once said--
the gift of giving
and so she did to seven of us
(blond stair steps people called us).
I am from compost bins brimming with coffee
grounds sprouting a kicking pair of
outraged young legs
and (purportedly) at least one mouse
I am from Grandpa's farm--the barn floor streaked
with sunlit fingers
hay dust puffing as we jumped
onto a forbidden pile.
I am from Pleasant Lake where friends
are made as easily as mud
but none are mine
I am from enormous green eyeglasses
and a hard-earned Polo shirt
which I wore too often
I know: photos don't lie
But I just wanted the mantle of real fashion
to touch me, if only briefly
I am from curly hair
that bounces when I'm happy
and from the small rebellion of wearing flip
flops till frost nips my toes
I am from chocolate shops
the smooth dark depths
the elucidating depths
as I've grown a bit of discrimination
and bypassed Hershey for Lindor
and then the really good stuff
I am from the chocolaterie in Chicago that
I can't find again
and from the one in Ashville--the Chocolate
Fetish, where each truffle enfolds
a world of flavors
Now I am from snobbery
as I cross desperate arms
before a glassy case, armed against
inferior mass production
I am from bookstores dark and musty--weighted
with the dust of wisdom and the fragility of type
tottering moldering piles
But also from Horizon Books on Front Street
and Schuler's on Grand River
those havens thick with new paper and fresh glue
of fresh brewing coffee and raspberry-
white chocolate scones
I am from snapping cold blue-gray sunrises
in the moment when night yields to day
as I sit awake too early on a Saturday in February
drinking coffee that is still too hot
And I am from the grandeur God paints
each evening which even Hopkins struggled
As I sit on the patio at Camp Arcadia,
glowing with reflected glory, and wish for words