Josie Loza: Writing camp lets young people express themselves
Josie Loza Omaha World-Herald
When you think of camps, there’s just about something for everyone: basketball, soccer, baseball, horseback riding, drama, music, math, science, art.
Yet for all those choices, one is often overlooked: writing. The written word is one of the best ways for children to use their imaginations, express themselves and deal with their emotions, yet this fundamental form of creativity is often ignored by camp directors.
That’s why David Martin created Fine Lines Writing Camp, now heading into its 15th consecutive summer.
Martin, Fine Lines’ self-described “managing editor, president of the board and chief cook and bottle washer,” has 35 years of writing experience. A retired Omaha Public Schools high school English teacher, he has also taught at Metropolitan Community College and is an adjunct professor at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.
His inspiration came from teaching a creative writing class to struggling high school students.
“I had them write stories about their lives,” he said. “They had significant stories to tell. I saw how writing touched the students.”
In 1991, he founded the literary journal Fine Lines to expand what he had achieved in the classroom and provide a place where creative writers could share their written ideas. The journal reaches all 50 states and has been read in at least 30 foreign countries.
Fine Lines Camp was a natural extension of the journal.
“I always wanted to have an academic creative writing camp,” Martin said. “For every academic camp, there are 100 athletic ones.”
Fine Lines is open to students in grades 4 through 12 as well as to college students and adults. The half-day camp, which has a camper-to-instructor ratio of 10-to-1, takes place at Beveridge Magnet Middle School, and every day guest speakers come in for 45 minutes to serve as points of inspirational departure. Speakers have included ballet dancers, flautists, cello players, comedians and historical re-enactors.
Wendy Lundeen, one of Fine Lines’ instructors, said, “We give kids so much time to work on their own writing. We try to teach them to think critically and analytically and to communicate their thoughts and feelings to express themselves.”
She said the instructors don’t tell campers what — or how — to write.
“I’m there to help with editing and revisions,” she said. “They think through their ideas and bounce ideas off one another. We try and spark their creativity, not give them rigid guidelines.”
By the end of the week, students usually have at least one story or some poetry. Much of that writing is often published in Fine Lines, which validates their writing abilities and gives them the confidence to continue.
Indeed, the changes in campers are often profound — a testament to why many come back year after year.
“We are really serious about writing. We are really serious about being creative. And we are really serious about having fun,” Martin said.
“It’s amazing,” Lundeen said. “Some of the kids didn’t even know they had writing capabilities. When they share their ideas and read what they’ve written out loud and hear the applause, their faces just light up. It’s such a joyful thing.”
“So many campers are encouraged. They say they always felt they had something to say, that they had a story to tell, that they were writers, but they never had an opportunity before,” he said. “Every year, we see people’s lives changed through the written word.”
Kim Carpenter, a World-Herald correspondent, wrote this story that was originally published in the Omaha World-Herald’s Kids Camp special section on Feb. 9, 2013.
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Fine Lines Writing Camp
When: June 9 to 13, 8:30 a.m. to noon.
Where: Beveridge Magnet Middle School, 1616 S. 120th St.
Who: Fourth- through 12th-graders.