Strange Horizons has posted a great roundtable discussion about Shared Worlds, the teen SF/F writing camp I’m the assistant director for, at Wofford College, Spartanburg, South Carolina. It includes some commentary by one of the students, Megan Jackson, and her father, as well as me, the camp’s director, Jeremy L.C. Jones, former teachers Kathe Koja and Ann VanderMeer.
Every summer since, the camp has offered teenagers ranging from eighth to twelfth grade opportunities to work with top science fiction/fantasy writers and editors like Ann VanderMeer, Will Hindmarch, Holly Black, Kathe Koja, Marly Youmans, and Michael Bishop, on world-building utilized in a fortnight of extensive drafting and writing, as well as group work that promotes team-building and problem solving. The first week, students team up to collaborate on world-building. The second week, they break off to focus solely on their writing. A week after the end of camp, students are rewarded with a high-quality keepsake book of their writing.
This year, the teachers include me, Ann, Will Hindmarch, Nnedi Okorafor, Minister Faust, and Ekaterina Sedia. The camp runs from July 17 through the 31.
There’s still time for students to register, although slots are filling fast.
Here’s an excerpt from the feature:
SJC: Why should a teen attend Shared Worlds?
Jeremy: We provide a safe place for teens to experiment with ideas and develop their imaginations, in ways that are fun and useful. Shared Worlds also offers students an opportunity to get together with other teens who love to read and write speculative fiction. Students at Shared Worlds are bright, creative, and enthusiastic young people who want to make stuff up, to tell stories, to dream big. These teens pride themselves on being readers and writers and artists….Can you imagine? Being fifteen years old and studying writing with Holly Black! That would’ve blown my mind as a teenager.
Jeff: I…wanted to work in something Ann and I believe in deeply: stimulation of the imagination through the kinds of writing exercises and contexts that provide structure but also allow teens to take a leap of faith off into the unknown with their creativity. Structure is so important because it’s the structure that allows them to relax. And I also eventually wanted to institute the one-on-one sessions with students that I’d seen work effectively at Clarion. In a teen writing camp context, those one-on-one sessions are even more valuable, because sometimes it’s the first time a teen writer has had a professional writer listen to them and take their writing goals, dreams, and aspirations seriously. Sometimes you can just see it in their eyes: the sudden realization that they are indeed a writer, they are allowed to be a creative person…
Ann VanderMeer: I’ve spent most of my life working with young people in a variety of venues. Shared Worlds gives students an opportunity to let their imaginations run wild without fear of judgment. We give them permission to fail, so to speak. And in a safe, accepting environment surrounded by other like-minded students and teachers.
Kathe Koja: Because s/he wants to work, write, think, compose, create, make up truly hair-raising private jokes, scream and laugh and meet people who will be close friends by the time s/he leaves. . . . All the good stuff. I know I would have loved to go to a workshop like Shared Worlds as a teen writer, and I bet all the other visiting writers have said the same.