Book Camp Life

Book Camp, Day 4

The children only ever want to make one of something. One draft of that essay. One attempt at putting sheets on the bed. One try of anything. They don’t appreciate the glory of allowing a disgusting first draft or the catharsis of getting to the final draft. They want to skip error and most definitely trial.


What if we made apple cookies? What if we made apple cookies from our own recipe? There are some things we’d need to figure out.

  • what elements are common in cookies
  • what ratios of elements are common
  • what differences are required in apple cookies

We’d also need to

  • work in small batches to avoid spoiling a big bunch and
  • keep excellent track of amounts and methods.

What if we make the perfect apple cookie but we don’t write down the recipe? The kids seemed to think we’d never exactly duplicate the blessed cookie again. I agree. And if we spend all our time drafting recipes but never actually try to make a cookie? As an eleven-year-old said, “We won’t eat cookies.” We’ll never even know if we could make the cookie.

But what if the recipe and cookies aren’t that great or are awful? The ten-year-old said we should give up, and a thirteen-year-old agreed that we should abandon the pursuit. Maybe that’s true if all we want is an experiment.

Many things in life will be more important than a cookie experiment, unless your job happens to be making new cookie recipes. And few of those things will be achieved in a one-and-done manner.


In Hamilton: The Revolution, Lin-Manuel Miranda noted the evolution of the play over time. On page 16, note 2 says that the opening song was once a monologue by Aaron Burr. Note 11 on page 28 mentions a change due to the prohibitive cost of a sample, and the next note reveals the author took a year to write the verse that is his inner dialogue of death. And note 15 on page 30 references the meetings with others that helped a song’s ending emerge. Similar notes frame many pages, and I adore them.

It can be easy to think a creator’s path is both linear and quick: idea to drafting to product to insta-success. I’d venture to say this never happens. Ideas take time to percolate and grow. Drafts may be so many they eventually become unnumbered. Feedback changes the course of things. And unrelated work may intervene. Even when the work is complete, it needs other people to become successful. No one does it alone. And no success occurs overnight.


The children will not have a completed adaptation this week. That’s not the purpose of book camp. The purpose is to dig into the craft of making art so that the kids can go make art–try and fail, err and succeed, finish and percolate and grow–the rest of the year.

Eldest is writing a song from a scene. First is writing a narrative from a song. They are thirteen and can work more independently than the others. They are more sure in what they want to do, in what they enjoy doing. They are embracing their styles, but encouragement is vital at this moment.

Middling and Second are both eleven, and they have exceedingly disparate approaches to creative work. Second has changed her format or her conceit many times: narrative to poem, narrative to narrative but genderbent, narrative to narrative but genderbent with a twist, narrative to comic. Middling phoned it in. He basically printed the lyrics to a popular song and said, “and demons.” Today we all listened to the song and we made a game of finding the story, the problems, the characters, the spaces in between for embellishment.

Third. Well, Third is ten but wakes up in a brand new world every eight seconds. Keeping him on track is not the easiest. His favorite song in Hamilton is Non-Stop, and he decided to turn the song into a comic, which he insists on calling a graphic novel, though it’s rather brief. But he keeps forgetting what to do to move from one format to the other.

I began reading to them this week from my nearly polished novel. We finished today. Reading aloud is a terrific way to edit–you hear the rough patches and the inconsistencies. Their feedback has been phenomenal. Their questions, spot on. Either just what I hoped they’d ask or challenges for me to meet.

Because no matter where you are in the process, it’s still a process. Whether you’re ten or four times that or eight times. The joy must be in the process. If the joy and purpose are only in the product, you’ll learn sooner or later to buy your cookies at the store instead of making them, let alone making the recipe for them. True of cookies and true of books or songs or movies or musicals or any kind of art. Find some joy in the process, and hold on tightly.

Well Mannered Frivolity

Individual mini pizzas, followed by an apple-bacon pizza and a movie. Then snow cones and another movie. Because you only have one Thursday of book camp.

Apple-Bacon Pizza

  • 1 refrigerated pizza dough (or whatever you prefer)
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and mashed
  • 4 oz diced canned tomatoes
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 4 oz applesauce (we used the chunky homemade applesauce from earlier this week)
  • 2 ambrosia apples, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced (or your favorite sweet apple)
  • cheese, shredded (we used a mix of provolone, gouda, and mozzarella)
  • 1 lb bacon
  1. Prepare the bacon. Slice the bacon into long, thin tendrils. Heat a deep pot over high heat. Drop in one bit of bacon. When it sizzles, turn down the heat to medium-low and allow the bacon to cook slowly until dark and curling. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels. Bacon will crisp as the oil drains.
  2. Prepare the first step of the refrigerated dough.
  3. In a small saucepan, heat the garlic for a few seconds. Add tomatoes. Bring to boil. Turn heat to medium-high. Add salt, seasonings, and applesauce. Cook five minutes. Remove from heat.
  4. On the partially cooked dough, spread the tomato-apple sauce. Line the top with apple slices. Cover with cheese. Sprinkle with bacon cordons.
  5. Return pizza to oven and cook according to dough directions.
  6. Remove from oven. Let sit two minutes. Slice and enjoy!

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