The guest speaker for today was Lauren Moews, a film producer. She discussed the importance of the characters and pitch of any story. She also explained the process of filmmaking and producing films.
Lauren used famous movies as an example for an exercise on pitching the movie idea to potential clients to raise money. She used Harry Potter, Moana, and Wonder Woman to explore the campers’ understanding of characters.
The campers discussed who the protagonist, antagonist, and mentor were for each of these films. They also discovered the best way to describe and explain why these characters play important roles. The campers can take this lesson and apply it to their personal stories, allowing them to have more ideas and to make their stories even better.
Today also marked the second day of museum visits, allowing the sixth grade group to take part in the process. The Weatherspoon Museum is the art museum located on UNCG’s campus. The camp is able to utilize it as a way to tie the campers’ writing to other forms of art and expression. The museum’s current exhibition is called Art on Paper and features pieces done with and on paper.
The class’s first activity at the museum mirrored what the high school group did the previous day. As a group, they discussed what they saw in a selected painting. After each detail had been addressed, the group picked out adjectives that they felt fit the feeling of the painting.
From that list the museum director chose the word “Pairs” for the group to turn into an acrostic poem, seen below.
Each camper then selected a separate piece of art which they studied and completed another acrostic poem. They had the opportunity to share these with the group afterwards.
Also today, many campers were able to enjoy a sweet and cold treat: ice cones in a cup! The kids quickly rushed to get in a long line to pick out their cup size and pour their favorite flavors.
It was a big hit! Some campers picked one flavor, others two or three, but only a few were brave enough to pick all of the flavors. The refreshing and colorful treats served as a nice break from writing, and hopefully inspired the campers to write more vibrantly.
Next Wednesday the ice cup truck will come by again. The smallest cup is $3, the medium sized cup is $4, and the large cup is $5. Snacks will still be provided to all campers, regardless of whether or not they bought an ice cup.
Day two of the camp started off with a few energetic guest authors from The Poetry Project. Josephus Thompson, the lead presenter, began by performing a poem for the campers.
Thompson performing his poem.
After performing the poem once, he asked the campers to fill in the last word of each line from the previous poem. The group correctly filled in each blank, and Thompson used this exercise to point to the power of one’s words. After hearing his poem once, Thompson’s words had resonated in each of the camper’s memories.
A camper writing down the words she remembered from Thompson’s poem.
Following this introduction to poetry and its power, Thompson allowed a few youth poets from the Poetry Project perform two poems, one solo and one as a duo. These poems were delivered eloquently, using the effects of humor, figurative language, volume and tone to drive the poems forward. Both poems, noted by the poets as coincidental, discussed their experiences with relationships, and probed the feelings that those relationships had evoked.
Young poets of the Poetry Program performing their poems.
At the end of the presentation, campers were allowed to ask the poets questions, whose topics ranged from stylistic choices to personal ones about the authors and specifics about The Poetry Project.
In speaking with various campers after this presentation, elements of delivery, emotion and confidence, stuck with them from the poets, and many plan to utilize some of these strengths in their own presentations at the end of camp.
Today also marks the first day of the Weatherspoon Art Museum visits. Over a course of three days, each group will have the chance to go to the museum. The first two groups to go today were the high schoolers and the 7th and 8th graders. The groups visit the museum to view the art and to use it as an inspiration for their own writings.
A worker at the museum, first, gathers the campers together around a piece of artwork. Together, the group makes observations of the artwork and applies it to create a poem.
The high school group gathers around a vivid piece of artwork to observe it.
The museum worker asks the campers for descriptions of the artwork,
and writes what the campers reply with onto a board.
The inspired campers begin to write their own interpretations and start to create the group poem.
After the poem is complete, the campers are allowed to roam around the gallery room and look at the other artwork. Once the hour-long visit is over, the campers head back to their classrooms to continue writing.
As the first day of camp begins, the campers eagerly head into the lecture room. This is where the campers meet each morning to see a guest author discuss their field of work. Today’s special guests were two spokespeople from The Melon Project, an educational system run by volunteers in Kenya, Africa. The campers will create works that will be shared with The Melon Project for the children in Africa to enjoy. These guests brought a slideshow of pictures from Kenya, to show the campers the lifestyle these African children live.
Several campers looking intently at the photos from The Melon Project.
Picture of children eating bananas and bread, which is described by The Melon Project presenters as a luxury.
After the students listened to the presenters from the Melon Project, they were divided by their rising grade level into various classes. The first day’s agenda entailed several get-to-know-you activities including a “I Know Someone Who…” Tic-Tac-Toe game and a Hot Potato Name Game.
Once introduced to everyone in their class, students got to work on their writing and entered the first stage of the writing process: brainstorming. In this stage campers let their minds wander to ideas of adventure, fantasy, how-to guides, spies, and personal memoirs. No idea is marked wrong in this stage and many of the classrooms engaged in time for the campers to bounce their ideas off of their peers.
This conversation not only allowed them another opportunity to get to know the campers around them, but also allowed them the ability to begin narrowing their ideas down to a select few to further flesh out.
The campers enjoyed a break mid-day for some outdoor time and a snack. In this time campers could socialize amongst themselves, allowing their brains a break from the intense brainstorming going on.
At the end of the day all of the campers seemed excited for the rest of camp. Many even decided to take their planning sheets home with them in order to jumpstart their writing process.
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.