Summer Camp and Summer Writing

How many of us can remember those days of summer when we were kids? The way it felt on the last day of school, the jittery eagerness for the final bell to ring, the doors to be thrown open to let us out out out? And the day would be warm and sunny, hot maybe; and we’d be in our new summer shorts, our cotton tops, our sandals that rubbed a blister on our heels because we hadn’t broken them in yet. (But what did a little blister matter when the whole of two-plus months of long days and no homework and the caliope music of ice cream trucks was waiting? A tiny annoyance in a vast season of freedom and pleasure!)

And some of us were the lucky ones who got to go to camp. Remember? My own family couldn’t really afford it, but one summer Roger (my brother, two years older, now recently deceased) and I were able to be campers at Wagon Wheels Day Camp. Somewhere there is a picture of us standing at the end of our driveway, waiting for the bus and wearing matching dark blue shorts (I used to pretend we were twins) showing off our not yet summer-tanned dimpled knees, sporting strange little cotton caps (think Gilligan on his island) and Wagon Wheels Day Camp t-shirts. I still remember arts and crafts and Popsicle-stick log cabin constructions, pinch-pot ashtrays (remember when it was not politically incorrect to make your parents something to support their unhealthy habits?), vinyl lanyard key chains. I remember our talent show at the end of summer, and all of us Doing the Freddie and me pretending to play the drums to Herman’s Hermits’ songs. 

Those were some of the great joys of summer camp: monkeying around and showing off. And getting to do those things you loved: making stuff, hanging out with new friends, playing in the sunshine. Getting away from the drag of real life.

Now here’s the good news. Adults can have summer camp, too. Really. They come in the form of adult arts programs. Places like Interlochen College of the Creative Arts up in Northern Michigan and Shake Rag Alley Center for the Arts in Mineral Point, Wisconsin, give adults a respite from the daily drag, a chance to play in the sunshine, to make stuff, and (if we are so inclined) to show off our talents.

This summer I am thrilled to be teaching for these programs. From June 2 – 5, I will be running a Writers’ Workshop at Shake Rag Alley. Four days of prose writers sharing work, making excursions into the Wisconsin countryside, and writing, writing, writing.

From June 20 – 23 at Interlochen College of Creative Arts, I will be co-teaching with Philip Hartigan a Journal and Sketchbook class aimed at helping writers of all levels to use scribbling, sketching, and drawing to better see their writing. (Artists are welcome to come and learn how to use writing to further see their drawing as well. Consider the intriguing interplay between image and text.) This workshop will be part of the very popular Interlochen Writers’ Retreat, four days of writing and writing craft, walks on the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lake Shore, readings and gatherings.

August 8 – 11, Philip Hartigan and I will be returning to Shake Rag Alley to teach another Journal and Sketchbook class that can be taken in conjunction with Philip’s Artist Books class. More playing in the sun. More making stuff. More talent sharing.

Each of these classes are designed to meet participants (campers) at their own skills levels, guaranteed to send them home with ideas and creative practices and work-in-progress. And the best part of Adult Summer Camp? For those of us who want it, there’s beer.

For a preview of what you can expect from your summer camp experience, check out this clip: 

Happy summer, everyone. See you at camp.

Oh, and by the way, Vanessa Gebbie, one of the conversationalists in our “Why the Short Story?” series going on over at the Conversations page of this site, is also teaching workshops this summer: one in Ireland, one in the UK. Drop by her blog to get more information. And don’t forget the sunscreen.←

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