Club camp inspires young authors

080218 The Authors Club
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Ganelle Sutton (center, left) is seen celebrating with excitement during her Candy Stories exercise at her Young Authors Club. This year was another successful camp as 33 future authors turned out for the camp held at Museum of the Albemarle.

080218 Authors
080218 Authors

BY Anna Goodwin McCarthy

Sunday, August 5, 2018

By creating an experience that inspires their words and imaginations to flow, Ganelle Sutton is making writing fun for kids at the Young Authors' Club.

When asked to write a story, some kids find it a difficult task to stare at an empty page, wondering how many words will suffice and not knowing how to begin.

When she first started her career as a middle school English language arts teacher in Elizabeth City-Pasquotank Public Schools 14 years ago, Sutton assumed her students were familiar with the experiences in the prompts she created for her writing lessons.

Sutton said she assigned a prompt about their favorite day at the beach, with the assumption that all of her students had been to the beach. She soon learned that a large majority had never been, so Sutton brought the beach to them. Sutton played sounds of the ocean for her students to hear, brought in sand for them to touch and mimicked the ocean’s mist with a spray bottle of water. They now had a experience they could write about.

Sutton said she came home from work that day and told her husband, Abel, about her desire to create a camp during the summer where kids could participate in engaging activities like the ones she used in her classroom that would inspire them to write.

Abel designed a mockup brochure for the camp the next day, and Sutton’s dream of the Young Authors' Club became a reality.

Now in its eleventh year, the Young Authors' Club, continues to be a source of inspiration for young writers each summer.

“It is fantastically fun and deceptively educational,” said Sutton.

The camp began this year on July 30 and concludes today on Aug. 3. Held at the Museum of the Albemarle, 33 students age nine to 15 participated in the camp from 8 a.m. to noon each day.

Sutton provides breakfast, lunch and a snack, as well as, all the materials campers need to complete the activities at the Young Authors' Club.

While Sutton is the creative director at the camp, she said she has many “amazing volunteers.”

“We focus on storytelling,” said Sutton. “I give them the inspiration.”

All ages are given the same activities.

“They write according to their level and ability,” said Sutton. “Differentiation takes care of itself.”

On the first day of camp, kids donned gloves and smashed a raw egg on the concrete.

Sutton prompted them to write a blurb from the point of view of the characters of the egg, the farmer, and other chickens.

Another day campers located hidden envelopes outside that would contain strips of paper with random characters and settings. They used the strips to create a story.

Sutton said campers could write in the hallway, outside or anywhere they felt comfortable.

Sutton tells campers all stories “start off with a conflict.”

When campers ask Sutton how long a story is required to be, her answer is, “I will know when the story is not finished.”

Sutton said she does make a length requirement.

“I don’t like a quota,” said Sutton. “It makes it more of a task.”

Instead of focusing on word count, Sutton instead asks campers to review their stories.

An unfinished story is “like watching a good movie and the power goes out,” said Sutton.

“I give positive feedback,” said Sutton.

Campers also learn all the ingredients of a story and are exposed to character, plot, setting and mood. To reinforce the ingredients of writing, campers actually make a cake during a hands-on activity. She maintains that all elements in a story are needed just like all ingredients are needed for a cake.

On the last day of the camp, Aug. 3, campers will participate in a Writers' Cafe. Campers will present and read one of their compositions on the stage at the Museum of the Albemarle before an audience of their family and friends.

Sutton said campers will finish the camp with a portfolio of their writings and a “background knowledge of writing techniques.”

Sutton earned her bachelor’s degree in journalism from East Carolina University and her master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from the University of Phoenix.

Sutton began writing as a young girl.

“My mom bought me a notebook and a pen,” said Sutton. “I would just write and write and write.”

Sutton is the author of two children’s books, “Cool Breeze” and “Double Dutch.”

Originally from New Bern, Sutton is currently a English language arts teacher at River Road Middle School. She lives in Weeksville with her husband and their children, Abel, Micah, Eden and Lily. Sutton is expecting her fifth child, a daughter.

For more information about the Young Authors' Club, visit the Young Authors’ Club Facebook page or call (252) 330-4976.