“Sharing ideas, reading books, creating stories—you brought out a ton of imagination and insight from my son.” Lilian, Parent
We only had two weeks to share everything we wanted to say about storytelling. So rather than start with exercises or curriculum, we dove right in. On the first day, we wrote over one hundred 6-word stories. By limiting ourselves to just 6 words, we had to really think: What makes a story a story? Most of our first drafts weren't stories at all. They were statements.
For example, one 5th grader wrote, "I am flying on a spaceship." We talked about how this statement doesn't suggest character or conflict. It's a fact. An observation. Another 5th grader wrote, "I left my lunch on earth." You get the feeling that the narrator has left her lunch on earth before. That means she lives on earth but works on the moon, in a space station, maybe in another dimension, and she's sad or annoyed that she forgot her lunch again. That's a story!
This led to a lot of discussions. Kids jumped in, helping each other transform statements and facts into stories. Some of these 6-word stories became the seeds for longer stories the kids would writer later.
“Your story camp helped my daughter think about writing in new and different ways.” Jen, Parent
A lot of the kids didn't think of themselves as writers. They were uncomfortable with words, especially fiction. Most wrote essays in school, so they were more comfortable writing nonfiction. But when challenged to write a story, it was surprising how many went blank. "I don't know what to write," became a mantra in the classroom.
So we introduced the kids to Instant Writing. "Just put your pencil on the paper and write whatever comes into your head," we said. "Whatever you're thinking about right now, write it down. Just keep putting words on the page. Be messy. Don't worry about spelling. Sooner or later, a word, phrase or idea will stick out. You'll think, That's kind of interesting!"
Instant Writing works almost every time, and soon the same kids who didn't know what to write were begging for more time to finish a story they discovered.
HERE ARE JUST A FEW OF THE 6-WORD STORIES WRITTEN ON THE FIRST DAY OF CAMP:
ONE OF MANY CREATIVE NONFICTION STORIES KIDS RESEARCHED AND WROTE DURING CAMP:
One day in Korea, in 1998, my mom was at high school washing her face. Instead of going to an afterschool program, she stayed at school, taking classes until 10 o’clock at night. A lot of students did this. She was washing face to keep from falling asleep.
The bell rang. My mom ran because she thought she was going to be late and get in trouble.
She had forgotten her glasses on the sink, so she didn't see that the glass door was closed. She ran right into the door. It shattered, and she was flung backwards, injuring her arms and legs. She was sent to the doctor and got stitches.
Her friends gave her a nickname, “Diamond Head,” because her head didn't get hurt at all in the crash, so her head must be as strong as a diamond.
To this day, she still has a few scars. But it didn't stop her from living her life. She said she even learned a lot from that experience. I feel like she taught me a lesson called "The Silver Lining."
“My daughter really enjoyed Story Camp. The teachers and mentors were very approachable, kind, and friendly.” Jan, Parent
We were lucky to have four teen mentors: Molly, Miya, Sloan, and Hanako. This allowed us to divide the class into four groups with five or six kids per group. Each student received a lot of individual attention.
This became even more important as we moved into our big projects (short stories and creative nonfiction) and focused on craft (plot, character, setting, language, and detail). These mentors volunteered their time—all to make a difference in the lives of these young storytellers.
Here's what we tried to accomplish in two weeks:
We tried to get all this done in just two weeks. Needless to say, we were a little too ambitious. We actually did cover everything on the list, but we only had time to touch on some of the topics. We couldn't give all of these great activities the in-depth attention they deserved.
But the kids had a great time and we learned a lot—which we hope to apply to future events!
“What can you do to improve Story Camp? Make it longer. Two weeks was too short for my daughter!” Sam, Parent
THE KIDS WROTE A LOT OF SIMILES AND METEAPHORS. HERE ARE A FEW FAVORITES:
HERE'S ONE OF THE SHORT STORIES WRITTEN IN CAMP. BUY THE BOOK TO GET ALL THE STORIES!
In a forest 65 million years ago, a group of triceratops killed all the raptors except Rave. He was the last raptor left. He was five years old and he lived in fear all the time.
One day a pack of triceratops spotted Rave. They chased him, and soon they surrounded Rave with their horns. Rave backed up and jumped over the big leader of the triceratops. Rave ran away and hid in a cave. He lived a secret, lonely life.
Thirteen year passed like that. Rave was eighteen years old now, and he had been planning his revenge all that time. He never forgot the leader of the triceratops. Rave crept through the forest, surprised, attacked, and killed the leader. The other triceratops ran. They didn’t know what to do without their leader. Rave chased them. He destroyed all the triceratops.
But that wasn’t enough for Rave. He wanted to destroy all the dinosaurs. He wanted to be the only dinosaur ruling the forest. Rave tried to hunt them, but he couldn’t find them. They were hiding, secretly following a trail in the tall grass.
Then Rave smelled the other dinosaurs. He spotted their horns and tails. He killed them. Finally, he had his revenge.
But he felt worse than ever. There were no dinosaurs left. No raptors, no triceratops. Rave was all alone in the world.