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Young writers' summer camp builds literary talents

July 07, 2010 - They used their sense of touch, smell, sound, sight and taste as they put their thoughts into words.

Thirteen young authors participated in this year's Writer's Camp for the last two weeks working on their skills.

"One of the things cool about the camp is not everyone is at the same writing level," said Phyllis Ness, Pine Knob Elementary teacher. "This is a writing that propelled writers at all levels to become better."

Lilly Chalker (click for larger version)
Ness and Jim Haugh, a Lake Orion teacher, had two returning campers from last year including Aalayna Green.

"She was glad she got to do it again," said mom, Tara. "She writes at home and really enjoys it."

Tara shared Aalayna has written novels since she was eight-years-old and the camp allows her to learn more.

"It gave her a little bit more understanding of the different ways she can write with more detail," she said.

"It was more fun than last year," Aalayna admitted and referred to the field trip the campers took to Downtown Clarkston.

The campers traveled throughout the area and stopped along the way jotting down notes about their experience for a possible writing piece.

Kristen Page used the descriptions for her piece she put into the anthology each camper had submitted one of their pieces.

She called hers Depot Park and began with:

"Crooked trees sit ahead of me like the Leaning Tower of Pisa. In the middle, an old swinging wooden chair - yellow like a pencil. 'Tweet, tweet,' the crazy birds chirped, sitting in the brown, decade old tree with giant crumble leaves."

Aalayna also found inspiration in trees when she wrote The Tree, "A swingset and sandbox from when I was younger had piles of snow on top of them, glistening like diamonds. I walked to the tree, pluck my glove off my hand and placed it on the bark of the tree. Cold. Cold as a villian's heart must be."

Kristen Page (click for larger version)
The camp was based a program Ness and Haugh took part of - the Oakland Writing Project, part of the National Writing Project.

"What is cool about the Oakland Writing Project and this camp is we are encouraging kids to write from the heart," said Ness. "Because of that we really got to know one another. Also, we are trying to help these kids develop the whole notion of social justice, welcoming to diversity and recognizing differences in people."

Another plus for the kids was they didn't have to be at a particular writing level to participate - they could be a a beginner or a novice.

"This is a writing camp that has propelled writers at all levels to become better," said Ness.

Throughout the two weeks the kids used their writer's eye and were more observant to the world around them. They wrote snapshots, personal narratives, poems and dialogues. They were not limited to writing- they could create artwork if they wanted to.

Ness and Haugh also read aloud different stories, including the book "Runt" by Marion Dane Bauer.

"It was to expose the kids to a quality piece of literature that is written with the kind of strategies and craft we are hoping they will develop," said Ness.

When Ness asked everyone to reflect on their last few weeks the response was inspiring as everyone felt they had grown as a writer.

"It was fun," said Trevor Townson. "I liked it."

"It's wonderful," said Wendy Townson. "Trevor learned a lot about writing techniques. It is nice to see such generosity in the community."

The camp had a lot of community support from local businesses. Rudy's Market offered a discount for lunch and scholarships were provided from the Clarkston Chamber of Commerce, Clarkston Foundation, school PTAs and PTOs

Participants this summer represented Clarkston elementaries and Sashabaw Middle School, Springfield Christian Academy and Mason Middle School in Waterford.

Wendi graduated from the University of Michigan-Flint with a degree in communications. She wrote for the Michigan Times college paper and Grand Blanc View before joining The Clarkston News in October 2007.
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