Thursday, April 17, 2014

Denver Teen Writers Get Their Own Summer Camp, Their Own Way ... by Trai Cartwright

Like lots of us, I’ve been writing stories since someone shoved a crayon in my fist. I got lots of oohs and ahhs from the adults in my world, not unlike a trained monkey at the circus might, but what I didn’t get was any kind of organized or professional support. There was exactly one creative writing class at my high school, and only a third of that time dealt with fiction. The rest of the time, I had to hack my way through poetry (anon, no!) and nonfiction (and this was before creative nonfiction, so it was basically journalism).

I was a sci-fi writer. I had no business or interest attempting either of those other mediums, but if I wanted any kind of fiction education, I had no choice.

When I grew up and started teaching creative writing for a living, I knew right away what my dream program was: a “boot camp” for teen writers. Four hardcore days of studying the craft with other teens, forming a tribe of people who understood exactly what it meant to be a writer, and encouraging them to pursue this most impossible of dreams.

It was the sort of program I would have died for as a teen.

So I went for it. I hired four local authors from different mediums to teach different tracks, I took on screenwriting, and away we went. Five years later, over 200 kids have attended Explorati Teen Writers Boot Camps, and the customer satisfaction is exactly what I hoped it would be:

"This was such a friendly environment, great learning and awesome people! Working with a writing teacher is important to me because they really have the finesse to help you. I can't wait for next year!"

Young writers are everywhere, but being writers they tend not to draw attention to themselves. They are the ones who disappear into their rooms for hours on end, not surfing or texting, but writing stories. They are the ones who pretend to follow along with classwork at their desks but in fact are revising a scene that just won’t stop running through their heads. They are the ones talking to themselves in different voices as their characters work out a piece of dialogue. They are the ones who keep book stores alive, who always have one foot and half their mind in another world, and who look somewhat bewildered when others are cheered for scoring a goal when they’ve just finished writing a 350-page novel and no one broke out the marching band for them.

Explorati Teens breaks out the marching band. We celebrate writers. We’re here just for them, so they can disappear into their very special cave for four days and do the thing they were born to do: write. Craft gets explained on a level designed just for them, revelations as well as friends are made, and best of all, they get help writing exactly what they want to write.

In Denver, no one else “lets” teen writers do this. There seems to be this idea that teens need prompts and guided exercises in order to write. In my experience, this couldn’t be further from the truth. They want to learn how to do what they do better. And that’s Explorati Teen Writers Boot Camp’s goal –whatever they are passionate about, we are passionate about.

So if you know a teen writer in the Denver area (or within commuting distance) who could use this sort of celebratory, inspiring, very serious approach to bolstering their endeavors, send them our way. We’ve got a camp for Middle Schoolers, developing High Schoolers, and for High Schoolers who are so advanced, they’re ready for a college-level education.

This summer is going to be serious fun!

Explorati Teen Writers Boot Camp

Fiction I (middle school) – June
Fiction II (high school) – July
Fiction III (advanced high school) – July – August
Cost: $275
Location: University Park, Denver (next to University of Denver)


Trai Cartwright, MFA, is a 20-year entertainment industry veteran and creative writing specialist. While in Los Angeles, she was a development executive for HBO, Paramount Pictures, and 20th Century Fox. A new Denver arrival, Trai currently teaches creative writing, film studies and screenwriting for Colorado universities, MFA residencies, writers groups, conferences, and one-on-one as an editor for fiction and screenplays. Learn more about Trai and her work at her website.


Margot Kinberg said...

Pat - Thanks for hosting Traci.

Traci - Thanks for sharing the 'insider's view' of the camp. What a terrific idea for helping young people explore writing.

Mary Aalgaard said...

Great idea for a camp. I wish I had been there as a teen. I'll share this post. I am starting something like that here in central Minnesota for kids and theatre class, where we write the script together.

Play off the Page

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

What a great program. I wish there had been something like that in our area for my daughter.

LD Masterson said...

I wish there were programs like this all over the country.