By Celie Knudsen
(read the complete Camp Anthology)
From June 24-28, 2013, the Nebraska Writing Project sponsored the first annual week-long Young Writers Camp (YWC) at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Affectionately labeled “Camp” by attendees, it brought in many students from high schools all across Nebraska, from local Lincoln North Star to far away Ogallala High School. It connected people with one goal in mind for the week: to be writers. Slam poets, novelists, short story writers, essayists, all gathered to learn more about the craft of writing. Directed by professor and slam poet Stacey Waite, its first year was a thrilling success.
Every morning, young writers met for three hours to be immersed in creativity. Writers started off with Morning Session with the same group of people each day, to rev the creative engine. This session often included different writing prompts, activities, and silliness to bond with fellow writers. After breakout sessions, writers had the opportunity to pick workshops to go to each day. Workshops were offered in every sort of genre and skill-building tool out there, including titles such as Rebellious Poetry, Six Word Memoir, and Not Your Normal Hallmark Card. These workshops were led by the fantastic YWC staff, six fabulous teachers from all walks of life connected by their ability to write.
Each day ended with a visit from a local Nebraska Writer. Visited by Matt Mason, slam poet and local Louder than a Bomb-Omaha coordinator, taught students how to be interested in their own poetry. Focusing on performance and passion, his workshop provoked many laughs and poems by all attending. Novelist Anna Monardo also came to discuss the process of writing a book, all the way from first draft to final hardcover, and everything in between. It all culminated Friday with a visit from Ted Kooser, renowned poet and former US Poet Laureate. While some may have been a bit starstruck by his presence, everything about Mr. Kooser, from his boots to his poetry, was down to earth and willing to teach writers more about writing.
Finally on Friday night, students gathered with their families for the YWC Celebration of Writing in Bailey Library. Readings and performances in prose, poetry, and every sort of writing in between prompted laughter and tears in the audience.
As for reviews from camp, perhaps the students can tell you best whether it was a success. When asked about her experience at Young Writers Camp, student Amanda Stewart said, “Writers Camp was an awakening of my passion for writing. It means the world to me that all of the instructors spent time to both read our writing and teach us about other forms of writing. It will always be something I will cherish and remember forever. I couldn’t say thank you enough.”
YWC is looking forward to an extended two week camp next summer, filled with more people, more opportunities, and most importantly more writing.