My Teen Writing Workshop or What I Did Last Summer

While steamy summer Washington days have given way to frost on the pumpkin, I still want to share with you the great memories of my mid-summer teen and tween writing workshop. At the end of July, we took over the Silver Spring Library and, within our glass enclosed walls, some amazing writing happened!

Monday, the first day, I was a little nervous because I didn’t know what or who to expect. Writing workshops at the library are open to all, so I hoped that some engaged writers signed up. One by one the young writers arrived, until we had a group of sixth- to tenth-grade girls around the table. Then it happened. A young man that I’ll refer to as “K” walked into the room. Almost instantaneously, the entire mood of the group changed, and I silently marveled at how middle school teachers keep order in their classrooms. Giggling commenced. Places at the table were swapped. Pencil erasers were thrown. A strict teacher voice was used. Finally, things settled down, and we had a lovely morning writing and listening to each other’s pieces. Midway through the session, the young writers played a game of musical chairs to burn off some energy. After the last writing prompt of the day, my writing group left with smiles on their faces and I stayed behind to recover.

Tuesday, the library staff changed our location, and K did not attend the writing workshop. However, the group spent half an hour talking about him. Throughout the morning, as the writers read their pieces, my admiration grew for their creativity and willingness to try new things. The girls insisted on playing musical chairs, and for the rest of the week the game became part of our daily routine.

Wednesday morning, guess who was back? Yep! K made his return and I found out that he’d been wandering the library the day before looking for us. Then something great happened. Another young man and his sisters joined the group, and things seemed to come into a peaceful balance. I find each workshop develops their own inside jokes and the mid-summer group was no different. More than once in response to prompts, at least one writer would create something about snakes, pie, or teddy bears.

Thursday, our last session was bittersweet. We were back to a small but mighty all-girls group, because K and the other guy did not attend; however, the writing was inventive and fantastic! The group especially enjoyed my Skittles Bingo game, in which the candy colors in participants’ sandwich bags corresponded to various protagonists, antagonists, settings, and plot details.

At the end of our time together, when I asked the girls which prompts they’d enjoyed the most, they told me that they liked them all. As noon struck and the session ended, the girls exchanged information and made plans to come to next year’s writing workshop. I guess it’s not too early for me to start thinking about writing workshop prompts for summer 2018!

Follow up on S’more Samoas 

After posting my piece on this blog about being a Girl Scout counselor, I decided to share the link with the “I went to GSCNC (Girl Scouts Council of the Nation’s Capital) Resident Camp” Facebook group. I received several responses, mostly saying that my piece had conjured up delightful memories for these readers of their own camping experiences. I was thrilled! Then I received a response that blew me away:

“ ❤ it! My first summer at CMF I was one of your Sherando campers. I fondly remember ‘Midnight in Sherando, the campers are in bed …’. Thanks for posting and bringing back wonderful memories!”

I felt as though someone had reach out to me through the years, recalling the counselor talent show when I sang my satirical version of “Midnight at the Oasis” that spoke of how mice ran through our cabins and ate from our snack can. After reading her note, I went back to my piece to see if I’d mentioned that song. I hadn’t.  It’s amazing that a once young camper would remember the nineteen-year-old me, and still know those words. What a wonderful, unexpected gift!

Shelley Carey

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