In young writer Nevaeh Harris’ story, the female protagonist is a high-class fashion designer who designs outfits for people’s pets.
Mattie Smith’s thriller features a spy who is on the verge of being fired. In order to save her job, the spy must complete a series of risky missions.
Those are just two of the plots in stories written earlier this week by aspiring authors attending a writing camp for youth ages 9-15. The week-long Young Authors Club creative writing camp was being held from 9 a.m. to noon at the outdoor pavilion at Forest Park Church and concluded Friday.
This summer’s camp marks its 13th annual edition, said camp director and instructor Ganelle Sutton, who’s written and published two children’s books. Sutton also teaches English and language arts to eighth-graders at River Road Middle School.
This year’s camp was different from previous installments, given the precautions Sutton had to make regarding COVID-19. For instance, she could only accept about a dozen students this year, or roughly half of her typical enrollment.
“This year has been very weird, obviously, for everybody,” Sutton said.
Students also were seated in compliance with social distancing rules and were reminded to keep their face masks on, except for when they broke briefly for lunch. While some students were face masks, a few donned plastic face shields.
The scene looked like any writer’s office, with tables scattered with pens and pencils and balls of crumpled notebook paper tossed by a frustrated writer struggling to find the right words.
“We’ve got some writer’s block over here,” shouted Melitta Smith, a volunteer helping Sutton with instruction. Smith, who also teaches at River Road, had been helping a student develop his story.
“We’re going to take care of that,” Sutton responded.
To help students with writer’s block and other aspects of the story development process, Sutton takes them on field trips and has them perform several exercises.
In one character-building exercise Wednesday, the children took turns dressing up in a mix of old clothes and shoes that Sutton provided.
“It looked kind of like a flea market,” Sutton said of the table covered in shirts, dresses, pants and ties.
Next, the students appeared in their outfits one at a time before their classmates, while the others announced their assumptions of that character based on the clothing items.
In a scene-building exercise earlier this week, Sutton took the campers to a local bed and breakfast, where they visited different rooms.
The students have written several stories this week and were scheduled on Friday to read aloud their favorite one.
Sutton said it was important to hold this year’s writing camp, regardless of safety measures she had to take to protect against COVID-19. With how in-person classroom instruction ended abruptly in March, she said it felt like students never got to really finish the school year.
“I didn’t want to stop the camp,” she said.