Thursday, June 17, 2010

Book an adventure for a young writer you know

I had a teacher in elementary school named Mrs. Kratky. The students called her Mrs. Crabby - and apparently she was.

My recollection of her is a bit different. I feared her. Looking back, I think it's because she challenged me and in Grade 6 I wasn't up for the challenge. I worked my butt off in her class because she was the type of teacher who called your parents if you weren't meeting her expectations, but I held no illusion I'd ever become teacher's pet.

So imagine my fear when after Mrs. Kratky handed back a short story assignment, mine was absent a grade. Instead, she'd written these words: See me after school. Your parents have been invited.

I spent the rest of my day questioning everything about that story, cursing myself for not keeping a copy. Had I completed it? Chosen inappropriate content? Swore?

As it turns out, after reading my short story about a witch named Wanda, Mrs. Kratky felt compelled to encourage my parents to foster my love of literacy. She immediately enrolled me in a creative writing course for junior high students, where we did fun assignments like use the phone book to think of cool character names, or write paragraphs of dialogue without tags and description.

Until that day, I'd spent a good portion of my school days dreaming of being like my friend Kim. Even in elementary Kim possessed serious talent when it came to drawing and painting. Her work was plastered all over the school. It wasn't that I wanted to draw - though that would be cool - but I longed for a talent of SOME kind. Anything I could be excited about.

Mrs. Kratky gave me that inspiration, that initial spark of I-can-do-it attitude.

Over the years I've had some amazing mentors. Gary Braver, Steve Berry, James Rollins - three outstanding thriller writers who have molded my craft, boosted my confidence, fueled the belly fire first lit by my elementary school teacher. In a society where artists - literary or otherwise - are typical loners (and misunderstood), these mentors allowed me to "be me."

Which is one of the reasons I'm so proud to work for the Young Alberta Book Society and support Wordsworth, a camp for youth who like to write. For one week, participants have an opportunity to be mentored by amazing literary artists from across Alberta. Surrounded by their peers in picturesque Bragg Creek, AB, these kids are immersed in the arts - from writing stories and articles, to creating poetry in movement, learning the basics of cartooning, and the wonderment of performance.

It's a camp like no other I've ever seen.

I've attended many writer's conferences and am a true believer in peer bonding. I met many of my closest friends at these conferences - people I talk to almost every day.

The kids who attend WordsWorth experience this same camaraderie. They attend workshops by day - awesome, craft and confidence building sessions - and by night sing around a campfire (often songs they've written during camp) or review each other's work.

It's impossible to describe the magic of WordsWorth - it's just that amazing.

Do you know any young writers (ages 11-19) you think would be perfect for a literary camp? I'd encourage you to send them the link to the website ( and check it out. Maybe you'd even like to sponsor a young writer? 

The camp for the younger writers (11-14) runs July 4-9, 2010. The older camp (15-19) takes place July 11-19, 2010. Deadline for registrations is June 23, 2010.

I'd be happy to answer any questions you may have.

The Book In My Bag Today: The Girl Who Played With Fire, Steig Larsson


  1. such a great story, dawn.
    and such a great idea for a camp!

  2. Thanks Mi. I wish I could take credit for the camp but am SO excited to be involved at all. It's such an amazing experience for the kids. My stepdaughter LOVED it.

  3. I love this story. And this is a great idea. Wish they had this kind of thing when I was a kid. :)

  4. I love that name: Wordsworth. It says so much. I wish it were my last name.

  5. Donna - I completely agree. This would have been ideal for both of us!

    Wendy - very true.

  6. That's a lovely story. Thanks go out to all those who mentor writers.

  7. The power of teachers to influence their students is immeasurable!

    Sounds like a great camp, I would love to get my daughter into something like that but Canada is kinda far away. LOL.

  8. Wow, what a great story and that camp sounds AMAZING. I'm going to talk to my parents about because my little sister Faith is 13 years old, eats books for breakfast lunch and dinner and she writes like you wouldn't believe. This would totally be her type of camp! Thanks!

  9. Thanks Jan. I'm lucky to have met you through the Young Alberta Book Society. Maybe YOU will be one of those camp mentors next year?!

    Vicki - darn geography, huh? We DO have a couple of kids registered from the US, but it does jack up the cost.

    CQG - that would be SO cool. If she registers, you'll have to let me know. I'd love to meet your little sis. Too bad you couldn't come to hang out :-)

  10. What a great story! You had a kick ass teacher!
    And this idea is so completely awesome and interesting. I dont know anyone though, but if I come across a child of a friend, will definetly recommend!

  11. Thanks Clara. I did have a kick-ass teacher. I didn't realize until watching my stepdaughter go through the school system how amazing Mrs. Kratky was - she truly cared about her students.

  12. Dawn-aren't those teachers FABULOUS, who pick out your spark and give it a blow...

    My writer's group is hosting BuNoWriMo this month and I know three participants are still in high school, so I will definitely pass on this link there!

  13. WT - Thank you so much. I'd appreciate that - I know the young writers will NOT be disappointed. I thought about BuNoWriMo but I think deadlines like that make me choke :-) And yes, I was quite fortunate to have Mrs. Kratky in Grade 6.

  14. My grandparents taught me to love books, especially my grandfather. Suggesting books then discussing them with me when I was done. The camp sounds like an awesome experience. Glad to see comics are included too.

  15. I think this is a terrific idea - I only wish my kids were interested in doing something like this.

  16. Great story and that camp sounds amazing! I'd have loved something like that when I was younger.

  17. RT - We've had some amazing instructors for the comics section and the kids love it. We might be lynched if we left it out :-)

    Jaydee - I hear you. My stepdaughter isn't going this year. She had fun, but is not really into the literary stuff. Breaks my heart :-(

    WW - I agree. There was many youth camps available when I was growing up, but not one for literary arts.

  18. Wordsworth sounds awesome! So, are you going to work there this summer? It must be so inspiring. Not just for the kids but for you too! You must get home and write like crazy. What an amazing opportunity.

  19. Suzanne - I do get to spend some time there this year. And it IS inspiring for sure. You'd be blown away by some of the writing these kids churn out. So brilliant. (And envy-inducing!)