It’s my birthday and I’m spending it at Teen Writing Camp with a dozen 12-to-18-year-olds who’ve voluntarily chosen to sit in a stuffy library meeting room at the Port Orchard Library each afternoon this week to write and learn about writing. We’re opening our last session with thirty minutes of silent writing time before the conversation will range wildly (and may include zombies) and it’ll take all my quick thinking to keep up with their questions and stories.
These dozen are full of enthusiasm and ideas and a penchant for the absurd. Half of them are writing novels, some are writing trilogies. They live close to their creativity.
It’s been twenty years since I began creative writing for “fun” though I’d had the impulse for at least a decade and had squashed it thanks to my inner critic—a rule following responsible adult who told me my time and imagination were better spent taking care of my family. (Though I did make up elaborate bedtime stories for my children many nights, I never wrote any of them down.) And now, I have the privilege of helping a crop of young writers claim their gifts of creative genius.
What I love about being with these teens is that no one has yet convinced them that their imaginations need to be reined in, that creating fantasy worlds and inventing characters is a waste of time, or that they lack the talent to be “real writers.”
A writer is someone who writes, and these teens write—in their heads, on paper, on devices. They invest scads of time and brainpower inventing characters, world building, and crafting elaborate plots.
On my birthday, my husband often asks me what wisdom I have to impart now that I’m a year older. Usually I don’t have much. But, this year, inspired by interacting with these teens, I’ll share a few words of wisdom gleaned from them that apply to writing and life:
Our writing time is winding down and soon we’ll be eating birthday cupcakes (mine’s gluten-free), listening to the stories that have been woven in this half-hour, and discussing how to stay motivated for the long haul. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate the gift of another year well lived.
The view from the Port Orchard library parking lot!
I am a writer who, in December 2011, fortified by a new MFA, empty nest, and changes in my husband's employment, relocated from my native California to Washington state to see what would unfold next.