This summer has been speeding by with a variety of projects.  A few weeks ago I was invited down to the LYN (Love Your Neighbor) House to conduct a creative writing camp (July 24-27).  I love the folks down at the LYN House, as they love on the kids in their neighborhood (I especially appreciate a ministry with hospitality and relationships at the heart of its mission).

Over the course of the week I wanted to take the kids through the creative process, getting their imaginations going, figuring out how to create a character, what makes a good plot, crafting good scenes and putting together a successful story.  I was worried about how the kids might respond, after all, the camp was 3-4 hours a day spent writing.  Basically, just like school except more intense.

The kids were amazing!

We began each day with an activity to get our imaginations going, usually a variation of exquisite corpse:  either folded up a piece of paper with each student having that section to draw a part of a body (head, body, or legs) or each person got to write one sentence of a story and then pass it on.  Then we unveiled the (silly) masterpieces.

After that, we had a long discussion about what goes into creating a character.  The details, the quirks, the history, all the things they love about their favorite characters, using super heroes as our example.  And we gave those characters a goal they had to reach.  The kids were free to come up with anyone they wanted and some even drew their creations.  I quickly realized that the secret to conducting a successful workshop is to shut up and get out of the way of kids’ imaginations.

The second day we took cameras into the neighborhood searching for inspiration.  The kids took pictures of anything that caught their attention, with an eye toward the image inspiring a scene or providing setting details for their story.  Did I mention the whole “get out of their way” thing?  When they returned, they wrote up a storm and we shared our creations before going back to work on our collaborative stories.

On the third day, we used story cubes to create zombie themed stories.  Then we had a discussion about what goes into a scene and the importance of details.  Then we just let them go some more.  The whole week the last half of the day was spent with the kids divided into groups to work on a collaborative story, with us sharing our progress each day.  The last day involved a discussion on editing and proofreading our work as we strove to improve each story.

The kids were great (which considering that I brought my two plus my nephew is no mean feat).  The volunteers at the LYN House refused to let them give into any “I can’t do that” sentiments and kept pushing them.  The kids surprised themselves with how much work they produced.  We’re in the process of collecting the stories and putting together a chapbook anthology of their stories (called Swag Surfing, because my nephew has a way of rallying folks).

[Though I might post my oldest son’s story here tomorrow, which he balked at as apparently I’m screwing him out of his “first time rights.”  For someone who supposedly hates writing as much as he does, he knows how to protect his rights.  I’ll have to bribe him accordingly to publish his story first.]

Here’s a few blogs from LYN House about the camp:

Creative Writing Camp – Day 1

Creative Writing Camp – Day 2