Shared Worlds Chapbook, Design by John Coulthart, Text from the Students

Although I will be blogging generally about the teen writing camp Shared Worlds (for which I serve as assistant director) over the next few days, I thought I would start out with something specific: the Shared Worlds chapbook that collected their artifact and bestiary writing exercises in saddle-stapled form. With great support from the teaching assistants and Cathy Connor in IT, we were able to create and print this nice memento of the students’ experience within about four-days–largely due, of course, to John Coulthart’s expertise and experience.

The exercises only capture a little snapshot of what the students were up to–and they produced a lot of cool stuff, including their full story in week two–but we thought it important to give them something to take away from the camp. In the back of the chapbook, we included space for autographs. So after we surprised them with it on the second Friday, the students were able to go around and have everyone sign it, too. (See photos below.)

John did great job with the images, and as you can see one student, Noah, even included diagrams as part of his artifact entry.

The two exercises were really about leveraging and stretching your imagination. On the first day each student got an “artifact”–an object that they had to recontextualize in their shared world, which meant they had to by the end of week one, with their worlds fairly complete, to turn in two to four paragraphs on how that object fit into their milieu. It could be something owned by or of significance to a character, a piece of a country’s history, or just about anything. Part the point, given that many of the artifacts are pretty mundane, ordinary things, is to show the students that anything in the real world can be fodder for their fantastical writing. Some students even used their artifact paragraphs as the basis for their complete story in the second week.

The bestiary exercise has them pair up and write about their partner as if that person were a fantastical animal, using their powers of observation (in a nice way) to tell the reader something true about that person. This exercise served as a nice way to get a fanciful author’s bio for each student in the back of the chapbook. (It’s also part of a longer series of exercises Ann and I do as part of adult workshops.)

Here, then, are a few relevant photos, with more on Shared Worlds generally tomorrow.