CWC Summer Camp

Monday to Wednesday I spent with the CWC writer’s camp out in Abbotsford. The scenery was beautiful, with green trees and rolling hills. (Of course, to truly appreciate the serenity of the location I had to ignore the gun shots that went off every 5 minutes – apparently to scare away birds from farmer’s crops…)

Monday we arrived and checked in. My roommate for the 3-day camp was fellow author Lee Edward Fodi. The first thing we did (like all good authors do) was to set up our computers and check for wireless. He had a Mac, and I had my PC. Just like on one of those commercials, he had his up and running on the ‘net in a matter of seconds while I spent a good 10 minutes just trying to get a signal. Grrr!

After check-in we had a sort-of pep rally to get the students and parents in the mood for a great time at camp. Kari Winters, Lori Sherritt and Shelley Macdonald offered their expertise in drama, and myself, Lee Fodi and kc dyer took on the writing portion. Our theme was Circus and Magic!

I had all day Monday free from teaching. I spent the day sitting at a bench under a shady tree (still got burned) and wrote to my heart’s content. It was wonderful! To just sit and listen to the birds sing, the dragonflies buzz around me and overlook the wondrous green valley and feel the words spill from my imagination to the page was heavenly. (Of course, do keep in mind that I was writing the darker side of life filled with night scenes, vampires and werewolves.)

What I discovered from doing this was that inspiration comes not just from telling your students about writing, but from them seeing you act on what you preach. At one point that evening Lee Fodi worked at finishing up a drawing for his next book while I scribbled away my chapters. A young lady named Melanie watched in earnest, and finally said, “Wow. I get to see real authors at work creating books that aren’t published yet.” When I was her age I would have loved to have had that opportunity!

Tuesday I had two 3-hour classes with the grade 6-8’s. Our first class we discussed the book, “Tiger Rising” by Kate Di Camillo. We spoke about the tiger being a metaphor, first for the boy’s caged emotions and also of the girl’s savage anger. I also tied it into circus, and of how many people feel it’s wrong to cage animals for entertainment. We created characters, backgrounds, and even maps where their imaginary worlds might exist.

That evening Shelley MacDonald worked with them to develop skits. I came in during the second half and helped out a little; after all, I do have a short-term theatre background. Wednesday morning the students had a chance to finish any stories they were working on, and also to practice their skits. For during the afternoon, they had a performance for the parents to show what they’d been learning while at the CWC camp.

My favourite parts of the camp were the conversations I got to have with the students between classes. These were enthusiastic kids with big imaginations and it was fantastic being a part of their energy. (And believe me, they had LOTS of energy!)

The best part – from Monday to Friday I get to participate in a similar camp at the Vancouver Public Library. For 5 days I’ll have another opportunity to inspire another set of young writers, and to be inspired by them!

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