Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Writing camp

Holly is so lucky. She gets to spend the whole week writing.

And just as my envy was starting to get the best of me this morning as I dropped her off at her writing day camp, I remembered something useful: I went to writing day camp this year also. I too got to spend whole days writing, back in late June when I attended the Aspen Writers' Foundation summer conference.

It may have had a fairly different format from Holly's day camp – she and her fellow campers lounge against pillows in a friend's comfortable basement as they write, whereas we sat on a sun-filled terrace overlooking the Roaring Fork River canyon with the Rocky Mountains in the distance – and different Big Names thrown around to draw in participants – ours had National Book Award winner Colum McCann as keynote speaker, but hers has one of Carlisle's most popular second grade teachers leading the way – but both of us opted to devote a week of our summer to writing this year. And it's a pretty cool thing for the two of us to have in common.

I have to admit, it's given me no end of delight to watch Holly head off to camp every morning this week, peacock blue notebook in hand, her head full of story ideas. Though there are so many interests I'd be happy to see her pursue, from sewing to graphic design to running to playing an instrument, it will surprise no one to hear that nothing strikes at my core quite the way seeing her want to write does.

Like most kids, she's always enjoyed writing, whether doing an in-class assignment or scribbling away in the back of the car as we do errands together, but this week is different. This is the first time she's had the chance to devote hours to her writing, day after day. And she is loving it. She walks around with a gleam in her eye, spouting plot twists and memories she wants to record. She asks me keenly contemplated questions: “Mommy, is it okay if I leave out the detail about Belle getting her nails clipped when I describe her visit to the vet, just to make the story move along faster?” She brims over with excitement when it's time to read me what she worked on each day.

Writing camp is an unusual option for a nine-year-old. Most of her friends are doing soccer camp this week, or drama camp, or music camp. We're lucky that one of Holly's friends wanted to find a writing camp strongly enough that the child's mother took it upon herself to set one up, with a talented grade school teacher willing to lead it.

Holly has just two days left. Thoughts about writing have filled her mind this week; I hope that continues. Maybe someday she and I will go to writing camp – whether the Aspen conference or somewhere else – together. But mostly, of course, I just hope she keeps writing. She definitely has the passion for it, and this week was a wonderful way to focus that energy. She will no doubt develop many various interests as she grows older, and I'm the first to admit there are more lucrative directions toward which her talents could potentially go. But I'm happy to see her writing this week. She loves her camp notebook, her pile of photographic writing cues, the shared excitement of the other girls in the group. I felt just the same way at the conference I attended earlier in the summer. There's no other feeling quite like it, and I'm so pleased it's something we're sharing.

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