On Monday I left with Lee Edward Fodi and Dan Bar-El to meet up with Kari Winters, Lori Sherrit and Kallie George at the CWC Canadian Camp 2008 (CWC is the Creative Writing for Children Society). This year it was held at Trinity Western University, which is a beautiful campus in Langley, BC very near Fort Langley (and the awesome Wedel’s Bookstore!).
On arrival, Lee and Kallie raced around their student’s rooms planting secret objects while Dan and I just tried to get our bearings. The theme for this camp was ADVENTURE, and I was partnered with Lori Sherrit of the TICKLE TRUNK PLAYERS. What I noticed most on arrival was the energy the students had – and there was a range from grade 4 up to grade 8 – as they met their roommates and saw the campus.
Lori and I had decided on the theme of “dungeon,” with me leading the writing and Lori the drama. In my class, students learned the terminology of dungeons such as the LORE and TRAPS and CODES or GUARDIANS. I showed them movie clips that reinforced my lecture, and then they began to write.
First they wrote the legend, or lore, of how their dungeon came to be. Then they drew maps, and wrote in secret passageways, guardians of the treasure, and traps to keep would-be adventurers out (or in!). Then they had Lori, who taught them to write a play – everything from story to character. Finally, Lori and I took what they did in both our classes and had them create a comic book that can be seen here.
What I’ll take away from this camp most of all won’t be the classes or the lessons, but the time spent with these awesome students. During free periods, Lee and I spent our time outside working on our own projects. While Lee drew, I wrote. And while we did this, there was always a group of students that came out to join us and watch.
One boy commented to Lee that he had thought Lee’s drawings just came from the computer, and this was the first time he really understood the work put behind each illustration. Another one of the boys told me that he enjoyed writing fantasy, because he could just make things up without any research. When I showed him the amount of research I put into writing my werewolf lore, he was very interested. It was moments such as those, when students got a chance to see working authors and illustrators in action, that they learned the most.
Of course, the camp was not all work. There was a treasure hunt with riddles and codes that had to be broken in order to figure out the course. Everyone had a great time running from point to point, working in groups to be the first to break the codes. It was awesome to see this group of students, many of whom were strangers when they met, working so well together.
The hardest part of the camp is the same as any camp – having to say goodbye and return back to Regular Life. There’s something very special about sharing meals with fellow writers – adult and student – that makes life just feel awesome. Suddenly being at home, typing away on a laptop without anyone knocking on your door to ask a question or slipping a coded message under your door as a prank, that feels a little too quiet. Of course, there’s always CWC camp next year…