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You Are Here camp offers inspiration for young writers

The You Are Here writing camp attendees pose outside the Gilford Public Library. (Jeff Ferland) (click for larger version)
July 20, 2011
After a week of inspirational and creative exercises, young aspiring writers recently shared original works and reflected on their fond experiences of the You Are Here writing camp.

"I believe that if you look at something from a different angle, you look at something new," recited Catherine McLaughlin from her "I Believe" statement — a creative writing assignment given by camp instructor Lani Voivod.

In her statement, McLaughlin described lounging on a sandy beach when she began noticing differences in each individual grain of sand. McLaughlin associated this with each unique individual making up all of humanity. At a distance, she said, a civilization may look homogenized as a sandy beach, but from a different angle, it becomes a collection of unique individuals.

According to Voivod, the camp has been offering young writers an opportunity to hone their skills for six years.

"They are good; they are all very good and unique," said Voivod, referring to the group of eight young writers grouped around a table in the library meeting room, including her son, Joey Voivod, who particularly enjoyed the creativity games played throughout the week.

"The outdoor games!" exclaimed Joey when asked his favorite experience. "Pass the Paper, where you make one sentence and pass it. You cannot predict it at all."

He also seemed particularly eager to replay the "Bench" game, where the object is to persuade a person to move off a bench without touching them. Each game promotes creative thinking and endless alternative solutions.

The camp offered students an alternative to a conventional classroom setting. Voivod guided young writers through these creative games, along with helpful writing techniques and exercises, such as a personal profile.

"You take a picture of yourself and four words that are a good value to you," explained McLaughlin. "It helps you inspire yourself."

The group also studied a case where a man stood by a road with a sign which read "Free Hugs," and would give a hug to anyone who would accept. A seemingly innocent gesture; however, police instructed the man to desist. The seemingly small event inspired a petition which received 10,000 signatures.

"Are you feeling inspired?" Voivod asked her class.

A true believer in ability of creative thought and the power of inspiration, she explained that "The world is dependent on story-telling. Tell a story — make an emotional connection."

Torre Davy recalled being inspired when the group instituted "Free Hug Friday," where students would walk around giving free hugs, as seen in the free hug documentary; however, when Davy held up a sign which read "free hugs," everyone ran away.

The group participated in writing exercises adapted from Edward R. Murrow's "This I Believe" segment, recently resurrected by NPR. Voivod assigned the task of completing "I Believe" and "I Feel" statements focusing on positive ideas.

"It focuses on inspiring yourself," said McLaughlin.

The exercise seemed particularly effective for Dawson Ellis, who was attending his third year of the writing camp.

"I came at 10 years old," said Ellis, who recalled how he hated writing when he was younger. "I used to get stuck all the time. There's no limit to how much you can do here."

In addition to these inspirational lessons and creative writing exercises, Voivod offered helpful writing tips to encourage the young group not to give up when writing.

Voivod explained that writing is a process. She reiterated the writing adage, "Nothing is ever written; it's re-written."

Martin Lord Osman
Salmon Press
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