Writing on your own is one thing, but teaching a child to express themselves verbally is another. Trust me. Who decided that high-school students could take on the role of a writing mentor?
Our youngest campers, ranging from the third to fifth grade, tend to need the most assistance. The fifth graders are caught in a constant in between. They feel older than the elementary school kids, but they aren’t in middle school yet. Most of them are only just coming into their own as a writer. The third and fourth graders feel that they have something to prove.They haven’t quite grasped the fundamentals - spelling, grammar, and punctuation - but they have great stories planned out in their heads they just want to get out. They’ve got the ideas without the articulacy. This can mean that half the time they're saying the wrong thing; thinking one thing but writing another. Or they punctuate the wrong place; wanting it to sound one way but making it sound another. That’s where we’ve been found most useful. We are the editors for a team of creative minds. However, in desperate attempts to prove they can stand on their own, they refuse any feedback (be it editing, peer reading, or questions about content). They want to be looked at as equals, and that is one thing we have tried to master. If you can talk to them as you would an adult, they trust you, and they are more likely to share. A younger individual is more likely to respond positively if you speak to them as if they were just another friend, treat them with as much respect as you would an adult, and let them know that what they are trying to say matters. We have to take a step back and remember that these aren’t just kids. They’re young, but they are our peers. They are part of your community too, and as writers, we must support one another.
Delana has what most would call an “overactive imagination.” We’ve been working together for most of the camp, focusing on editing and detail. Upon first reading her rough draft, I asked if she had more detail. She did, and when we began talking through her story, it was all there. You could read it in her expression, see it in her eyes. The tales of two dragons - Scarlet and Thrashath - that enveloped and consumed her.
I say, “Just close your eyes and imagine it, then write everything you imagine on paper and then you kind of form it into words on your computer.” She’s done this with me; she begins and the world of dragons and kingdoms is playing across her closed eyelids with intense detail.
She reads to me, When I had awoken I was in a thick soft barrier. It was transparent and it had a scaled pattern that matched my own. I could see out of the enclosure; while I looked I saw my mother sharpening her talons with the sharp edge of another dragon’s tail, she filed them into a curved point. She spat some fire over my barrier, keeping me warm as the night went by. When she thought I was sleeping, she started to flap her wings.
She is wise beyond her years, and has taught me more than I feel I’ve taught her.
On Monday, we focused entirely on editing. She had been given input from family members, and her eyes had dimmed from their fiery glow. She wasn’t ready to edit, having only gotten to the first major conflict. The idea that she could continue writing a story beyond the camp had never crossed her mind. Is that something that has manifested within us because of the current Language Arts education in schools? Many of the 5th graders still spilling words onto the page are afraid of deadlines; they aren’t able to express the story they have when given such harsh structure and time limits.
“I like to just get the story down and then… come back and edit.” In her own ventures, she uses the same advice we’ve been giving out: Write your stories without worrying about anything. Just put words to paper. Adding some notes might be useful later on, we’ve found it handy to mark down character names and their characteristics. Get out what you need to get out, execute your idea, and then we can help fill in the gaps. That's usually all they need.
In the words of a ten year old, “Normally, I would just ‘bleh’” Her arms move in a throwing motion, her words coming from her mouth into disarray on the page. “Put them on the page, put them everywhere, put them out of sequence and then form them on the computer.”
The next part is usually the part they get shy about. Having someone else read their work. At first they're psyched about it, but as the editing process starts they begin to feel less confident about their work.
This is another place where we have to step in; making sure they know and understand that their story is still there, that we’re just cleaning it up a bit. Like if you’re near-sighted or far-sighted and the world around is a little out of focus. As editors we just make the story, the author’s vision, clear.
In the end, these young writers are inexperienced and worried and overprotective of their ideas. Openness comes with time. They are the next generation of authors, journalists, and screenplays writers (just ask the two girls filming their movies in this final week).
They write because they are writers. They write because if they didn’t, they wouldn’t be themselves. I think we all need a little more of that in our lives, a little more raw passion. Let us not dwell on the technical aspects, let us feel the words bleeding out of us. Let’s be storytellers.
Abby Gray, Jennings Roghelia, and Kamryn Lee are all attending Young Writer’s Camp at UNCG for the second week starting today, along with a whole classroom full of 6th and 7th graders. The first week allowed them time to begin writing their stories (and other assorted writings), and this blog post is dedicated to showcasing some of their work. Namely Abby’s, Jenning’s, and Kamryn’s.
As the astute reader may have noticed, there are three distinct genres and writing styles being explored by the spotlight writers for today. For those who weren’t cognizant of our title (I can be quite guilty of this sometimes), you’d best refer there to find our genres of choice. Now, without further ado, our first young writer of the day, Jennings Roghelia, a 12 year old up-and-coming Historical Fiction enthusiast.
When asked what his favorite part about writing was, he responded with “It’s fun." He says he decided to come to camp because he wanted to learn more about writing. He says he enjoys making things up where he can kill people. He admits it’s a bit dark, but he enjoys writing about people’s pain, which is almost definitely why he chose to write a piece on World War II. Here’s an excerpt of his writing from the camp, entitled War’s Call:
“The year was 1941. The second great war had been raging for 2 years now. More people were dying every day. I was lucky, until the bombs came. They fell like rain from the blackness above. I awoke to the sound of the air raid sirens screaming in the distance. Anti-aircraft guns blasted at the targets that the huge spot lights found, gliding through the dark night. I leaped out of bed and ran outside to the metal safe house next to the potato field. Then the bombs began to fall. First it was a distance drone of boom, boom, boom. Then the sound got louder and louder. The bombs were dropping in the field right next to my house. I closed my eyes and tiredness overcame me as I drifted to sleep.
I awoke to the sound of birds tweeting outside. I dragged myself out of the safe house and blinked in the bright sun light.”
Do they fade away unnoticed
Or break away with pain?
Like the sting of a gash
Or as peaceful as the rain?
Excerpt from Dreams of Ours, by Kamryn Lee
Our next young writer of the day is a poet. Kamryn Lee, a 12 year old girl who honestly writes better poetry than either of us can. Her favorite part of writing is the freeness of it, being able to do whatever you want and having no limits. She came to camp because she’s been here for a few years. She enjoys it because she gets to be around other writers, with which she’s allowed to bounce ideas off of and meet new friends. Her poetry is a delight to read, often covering realistic and relatable themes. But why bother talking about it when you could read it for yourself? This piece is called Drip, and was written especially for camp.
Goes the water
Into the sink
It turns to red
I cannot think.
It’s haunting me
I cannot stay
I see the man
He fades away.
The water goes
Goodbye to red
My hands are clean
The man is dead.
Last, but certainly not least, is our resident fantasy enthusiast, 12 year old Abby Gray. Her favorite part of writing is being able to create new people and new worlds that could never really exist, or developing new characters inspired by people that she knows in real life. She came to camp because she needed someone to give her advice and encouragement about her writing and get a chance to write in an environment with few distractions. She enjoys world building and character development more than anything else, which gives her an outlet to her more creative side. Here’s a taste of this fantasy fanatic’s writing for camp, entitled Mission Awkward:
“Got it! See ya!” He waves. I laugh at his excitement and turn to get a running start to fly. My feet kick up ash as I run I leap into the air and spread my wings. I need to hurry because Angi is probably already there. I fly the fastest I can until I’m home. Angi’s mom has parked in front of my house with her tan minivan and Angi is sitting on my porch with a glass of sweet tea.
“I have been waiting for like, ten minutes!” Angi glares at me.
“But you have sweet tea, and I had to get Calden… He’ll be here in ten.” I tell her.
“We have to wait ten more minutes?!” she complains.
“Come on, it’ll be fine. He’ll be here soon.” I assure her. I hear a screeching “ring ring” as I say that. Here comes Calden on his bike, which has a very annoying ring.
Of course, these three are not the only campers enjoying their time at UNCG’s Young Writer’s Camp; there are a multitude of other children exploring the craft of wordsmithing with us this year. Unfortunately, if we tried to go over all of them, it’d be a *very* long blog post, which might get a bit tedious. There’s no tedium, however, in saying that each and every child here at the Young Writer’s Camp is enjoying the experience(We’ve heard no complaints, at least!) and improving their skills in all areas of writing. Until next time!
Written by Aidan Heberle and Kaley Wood