The Leavenworth Times - Leavenworth, KS
  • Q5: Battling 'brain drain' during break

  • Summer is a prime time for the bane of school teachers everywhere via the infamous "brain drain."
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  • Summer is a prime time for the bane of school teachers everywhere via the infamous "brain drain."
    A series of writing exercises in July at The Writers Place in Kansas City, Mo., is designed to get students and young people exercising their creative sides during summer break.
    Mary Bunten, The Writers Place executive director, tells us more about the advantages of writing, many aspects of which hold true for the young and adults alike.
    1. Mary, why is The Writers Place-sponsored Writers Blocks summer writing camp the perfect place for teens who are fighting summer boredom and brain-drain?
    "The summer brain drain is real. A University of Missouri study says that during summer vacation kids lose up to three months of learning. I can remember coming back to school and noticing how unfamiliar it felt to hold a pen.
    "Our camps are a fun way to help kids exercise their brains, keep their writing skills from growing rusty, but have fun at the same time. Creative writing is both work and play. Camp stimulates the imagination and gives creativity the green light."
    2. What sort of activities will be featured at the camp and what was the general response from teens who attended last year's camp, the first offered by The Writers Place?
    "A typical workshop starts with the writer sharing some model that’s sparked his or her imagination. Usually it’s a poem or excerpt by a classic or contemporary writer, but it might be some other piece of writing that captured her attention — an article from a newspaper or tabloid, a fairy tale, an image, comic — and usually it illustrates some element of poetry or playwriting so they can discuss that, too.
    “After reading and talking about the piece, the kids move to writing their own pieces based on their own experiences.
    You never know what will spark that creative impulse.
    “Then they share, and offer one another feedback. They’ll have a chance to make changes based on what they hear.
    “Some days we’ll have visits from other professional writers who can tell kids more about what it’s really like to get up each day and churn out words.
    “At the end of the week, everyone gets a chance to publish work in a session anthology, and to read for family and friends.
    "Most of the kids who’ve signed up so far also attended last year’s. A lot of them come to our writing workshops during the year, too. For some of them, “The Writers Place is very special, a home away from home where they can get away from pressures they experience where they live and at school.
    Page 2 of 2 - “Read about them on our website: http://www.writersplace.org/the-kids-are-all-write."
    3. Who are the professional writers who will be leading the workshops and how will they encourage attendees to develop their own unique voices?
    "The writers leading our workshops are dynamic session leaders, poet Judy Roberts and playwright Frank Higgins. Since they’re writers, their perspective can be a little different than that of other adults in kids’ lives. They’re not worried about correctness or grades.
    “They want kids to keep it real, because that’s where the best writing comes from."
    4. Why is it so important during the sometimes angst-ridden teen years to offer a camp like this one? How does a writing camp best help young people feel more confident and better handle difficult emotions?
    "I think we all understand that teens sometimes experience emotions as overwhelming.
    “Writing can help them process these.
    “Once you’ve written about something, and you’re satisfied with what you wrote, you feel differently about that experience.
    "How this works is a little mysterious, but almost everyone has experienced relief after telling a story. Teens need that.
    “The camp also gives them a chance to interact with others and realize they’re not alone.
    "Nothing builds self-confidence like success, and these activities encourage them to persevere — they’ll see that nearly every piece of writing can be improved."
    5. When and where is the camp and how can teens sign up to attend?
    "July 7-11: writing poetry. July 14-18: writing monologues and plays.
    “They take place at The Writers Place, 3607 Pennsylvania, Kansas City, Mo., 64111. Sign up online: http://www.writersplace.org/writers-blocks."
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