Writing Camp! Of course! Why didn't I think of this sooner? I have held Spanish Camps for kids for over 10 years, but I hadn't thought about having a Writing Camp until last summer. Now an annual event, I want to share some exercises in creativity the kids loved and what I learned the second time around.
It seems to work out to have the camp for four days in a row for about three hours each day. A lunch break in the middle of the time works great to refuel and socialize. A poetry recital or reading of some kind at the end will show students their work is valued and show parents what you have been up to!
Items you should consider for your camp/campers:
Sprinkling in creative writing exercises and poetry throughout each day worked well. We played with many different forms of poetry such as: haiku, cinquain, different styles of rhyming poems, free verse, shape poems, acrostics, and the favorite this year- list poems. After students were taught a form, they saw examples, we would try it together, and then they would write. They could then add their poem into their blank books with the sharpie pens. Illustrations were optional and a fun thing to do when waiting for others. Probably the favorite part was sharing poems throughout the time.
Besides poems, we did all kinds of writing exercises to flex our creative muscles.
We did many other exercises throughout the camp, but ended with a time to celebrate their work. Family members were invited to a recital, where each student shared two pieces from the week on a microphone in front of the audience.
We had a great time together playing with words, encouraging each other, and sharing our efforts. My hope is that students were inspired to take risks in their writing and that they will infuse some of what they learned as they continue to write. I feel blessed to have worked with such an amazing group of young authors.
My family and colleagues sometimes refer to me as the Conference Queen. I accept this title as I nestle into my newly upholstered "throne" in my writing room. (Isn't this a fun room? I LOVE it!)
Attending conferences is a great way to learn more about strategies for writing, what kids are reading, and what publishers are looking for. I started out attending any SCBWI (Society for Children's Book Writers and Illustrators) conference I could manage to swing. I have gone to the LA conference many summers, NY for the first time this year, and countless Indiana and regional SCBWI conferences. I can't tell you how many pages of notes I have and ideas swirling around in my head from all of them! But I learned to not stop there.
The benefits from attending other conferences related to reading, writing, or education are hugely helpful too! One of my favorite things about my job as a literacy coach is that I get to attend some professional development conferences and come back and share with teachers. This is also a perk for being a member on the State Reading Council Executive Board and for being the Gifted Coordinator for my school corporation. This year I was fortunate enough to attend the Indiana State Reading Conference, the International Reading Conference, and the National Association for the Gifted Conference. It was at one of these conferences that I spoke with the Editor from Royal Fireworks Press about my manuscript for Maggot Man and he asked me to submit it to him. I ended up with a contract two weeks later. The NAGC conference is where I also met the editor from Free Spirit Publishing and ended up with a book deal for Penelope Perfect, with the option to make it into a series! You just never know who you will meet or what may spark an idea for another book.
Lots of conferences equals lots of networking. Conferences I attend help me to be able to submit to publishers and to continue to keep up with what editors and kids want to read. Attending conferences can be kicked up a notch further if you participate in a bigger way. Presenting at conferences allows you to share your expertise or passion in an area and give back to others. I have presented at many conferences and have made several contacts for author visits and other events this way.
I have recently gone even a step further by helping with the organizing end of conferences. I will be bringing an SCBWI event to Rensselaer on October 4th. The experience of putting this conference together and collaborating with other authors and speakers has been a great way to network and help other writers. (Registration for this conference will be open July 15th.) I hope to see many old and new faces at the conference!
So what is next? I will be heading to LA in August to get another dose of creative knowledge and love from the members of the SCBWI tribe and faculty. I will present at the Indiana State Reading Conference in September, I will co-host the SCBWI non-fiction conference in October, and I am attending the Gifted Conference in Baltimore in November. That will wrap up 2014 for me. (I need to save December for family time.) I hope to kick off 2015 with the ALA (American Library Association) Conference in Chicago in January. This will be a new conference for me and not far from home.
Many people ask me about how to get started in writing and publishing. A big step is to pick some conferences and squeeze all you can out of them! You don't have to try to go to a conference every month, but start with one and see if you like it. I recommend becoming an SCBWI member and seeking their conferences. You won't regret going if you are serious about writing for children. Maybe I will see you there! :)