Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Another Summer of Camp Spike Draws to a Close...

Mixed Media Masterpiece by VV: Toilet paper roll, gold spray paint, macaroni, glue, attitude!
You know, I can't even remember when I first started hosting summer camps. Maybe seven years ago? Maybe ten? Funny thing is, I remember waaaaaay back, in the nineties, trying to get a kids' writing group started. I made up fliers-- I think it was called Write On! This must've been pre-Internet because it was hard getting the word out and not a single taker materialized for my proposed program.

I tried again a few years later, hosting my first Writing Camp at BookPeople. That time I fared better-- I had kids show up. But the funny thing was, my "plan" involved having them write for three hours straight-- the full duration of each session. I had been projecting my fantasy onto these kids and the idea of having three uninterrupted hours of writing excited me to no end. Not so the kids, who quickly grew bored. And so I had to come up with other activities.

It's been so many years now that I can't even remember the precise evolution of things. I know some summers I just skipped camp altogether. And I know many summers I wrap up the sessions swearing Never Again! Not because it's bad, just because, as an introvert (it's true), by the time I host 3 or 5 or 6 weekly sessions, I am absolutely desperate to get back to my normal schedule which usually includes at least 8 to 10 alone hours each day (not including sleeping hours). Too, there's always going to be a tiny part of me that, when I am out pursuing other income generating-endeavors, thinks, "Why aren't you home writing?Weren't you supposed to be a full time writer?"

Apparently not. In 1988 I met a fabulous intuitive who told me, among other things, that in addition to being a writer, I was a teacher, that this was a calling to be heeded. I didn't love the idea when he brought it up. I came from a place-- both geographically and historically-- where "being a teacher" was one of the few things women were "allowed" to do. I resented this idea and fled from it. I wanted "more." (Funny aside-- that same guy told me I'd be working in something that looked like TV but that wasn't-- that it would be an interactive medium. Please note, I said this was 1988 long before the Internet would fall into the hands of the general population. How right that guy was.)

Over the years, the role of "teacher" just kept banging on my door until at last I answered. Warren is forever telling me I should be a kindergarten teacher and I am forever telling him to shut up with this idea. I don't want to be a full time teacher. I like leading my weekly writing workshops for adults, and I have a good amount of fun at summer camps. But then I need lots of big long breaks from teaching because for all of the crazy fun we have, I have to admit that I do get burned out sometimes-- being responsible for the lives of kids is a pretty big deal. So when, as happened this summer, I turn around to see a kid with a bag over his head, I can get a little freaked out. (In that moment, I turned on a dime from cheerful camp counselor to Crazed Mom Mode, snatching the bag away and saying in The Voice, "That is NEVER Okay!!" The kid then cried for a good half-hour or so while I apologized repeatedly and tried to explain that my tone of voice had been one of concern that he was going to suffocate, not Disappointment in Him as a Human, which seemed to be the message he took from it. Oh the lessons I learn in camp.)

This summer, to test out a theory I had that grown ups really do want to do kids-style camp, I offered a four-week session of Arts and Crafts for Big Kids or, as I prefer to call it: Wine and Potholder Weaving! Tomorrow night is our last meeting and boy did we have fun. Every Thursday night I lugged all my crafting supplies to our space and every week I was astonished at what creative things the campers came up with.

This astonishment happens at the kids' camps, too-- in Writing Camp, Arts & Crafts Camp, and Fashion Camp I see and hear so many amazing ideas. Below are more pictures from the various camps. But first, I want to share just one piece of writing from one of my students, Lilli H. I wish I could take some credit for inspiring this, but I have to tell you that based on our conversations and Lilli's astute observations about life, I'm going to say that she gets 100% full credit. I merely supplied paper and pencil and just happened to have been lucky enough to have her in my Teen Writing Camp:

Attempting to describe human behavior is one of the most challenging things to do as a writer.  When a writer describes something such as a flame or a drop of water, there is comfort in knowing the object's predictability.  You know the color of the flame of the feel of water.  It is the object's unwavering consistencies that make it describable.
However, human behavior is not a flame nor a drop of water.  It holds no rhyme or reason.  It has no intentions of bending to the laws of logic.  The most one could hope in trying to recreate it on paper is to find the very few patterns hidden beneath the surface.
--- Lilli H. 


clearspace said...

You did not mention the immense amount of fun had by all nor the sense of community enjoyed among all participants! Creativity is increased exponentially with others. The product is group conscious materialized. You are a magician Spike!

Spike Gillespie said...

blush blush. why thank you. sorry i forgot to mention the group fun-- i'm still in the debriefing period over here. i really have to give all credit to my mom who for years-- decades really-- got us nine kids busy doing all manner of crafting. yay. thanks mom!