the kids are all writing: Another year of summer camp success at the writers place
For two weeks in July, young writers ages 12- to 18-years-old converged on 3607 Pennsylvania for Writers’ Blocks, the annual creative writing summer camp at The Writers Place. This year, from July 6 to July 17, Monday through Friday, the young playwrights and poets received instruction, encouragement, and feedback from local professional writers and from each other.
The first week, led by local playwright and theater producer Michelle T. Johnson, focused on monologues and playwriting. Johnson led a group of six young dramatists through various exercises, from pet soliloquies to putting words into the mouths of soap opera stars set to mute. Their efforts culminated in 10-minute plays that received a staged reading on the last day of camp. The campers were cast in each other’s plays, while Teresa Leggard, a TWP board member, and Nick Sawin, local playwright and member of the Midwest Dramatist Center, provided feedback.
The second week, led by veteran educator and poet Judith Towse Roberts, was dedicated to poetry. Under Roberts’s instruction, the group of nearly a dozen young poets explored rhythm, revision, free verse, and literary devices. They also engaged in other creative activities and exercises meant to inspire. One task found them blowing bubbles outside on the porch; later they would use the “bubble” as a metaphor in a poem. Following a rather introspective prompt called “inside/outside,” each camper made double-sided masks to represent the many sides of the self. Local poets Jessica Ayala, Glenn North (of the teen poetry organization Louder Than an Bomb KC) and Karla Deel (of the local history project Squeezebox KC) also stopped by to chat and work with the young writers.
Writers’ Blocks concluded in that great literary tradition, the reading. The Young Writers Reading, co-sponsored by The Writers Place and the Greater Kansas City Writing Project, was an evening of performance and celebration at The Writers Place. The campers shared their work, dazzled the audience, and cheered on each other. A returning camper and four-year member of GKCWP says she loves reading at The Writers Place. “It's a pretty clever thing to take an old house and make it a place that writers can be themselves,” she said. “It can feel kind of like they're in a community.” This year was the second Writers’ Blocks for a rising junior at Shawnee Mission North. Her mom came across Writers’ Blocks while looking for workshops to develop her own writing. She called Writers’ Blocks one of the best writing workshops she has ever attended. And for a first-time Writers’ Blocks camper, a highlight was just being with writers every day. We couldn’t agree more.