Book Camp Life

Book Camp 2020, Day 3

“Thank you for that bespoke nightmare,” said Wasabi when I informed the group of face mites.
We were applying face masks–well, all but the A.D. and Twiz. I felt compelled to tell them about the thousands of face mites on (in?) our faces at that very moment.

Anyway, last night was a movie and face masks and nose peels (which the A.D. did with the group, but Twiz and Cheese Ball didn’t) and comparing the results of nose peels and Ben & Jerry’s cookie dough bites. Sounds like book camp to me!

Some combination of my work schedule, the existence of a pandemic since whenever I can’t recall, and the fact that the campers are all teens or nearly so has melded together to create a special sort of friction and fraughtness this book camp.

Somehow between us, my sister and I bore five alphas. Two of which are alpha-alphas and two of which are beta-alphas and one of which is so lone-alpha as to not recognize the other four are alphas. We had counseling sessions this morning. Me and the two alpha-alphas. Me and the two beta-alphas. It was a good dialogue. Some feelings were spilled. Some necessary words were said. Some agreements were tendered.

The group write is something no one came happy to do. Then I handed them a mashed up plot based on their various arcs they sent me, and the gears began to turn. And the story bloomed. Well, you can imagine that five alphas co-writing one story has its…limitations. We are on day 3 and for two days they’ve wanted to write the story each themselves.

I won’t let them.

Group projects in school. Any project as a working person. Some future partnership with another human. All of these require the ability to group write. Which is to say, each situation requires the ability to share ideas openly, come to agreement on content and method, accept the ways and ideas of other people, and listening to others. Respect. Collaboration. Flexibility. So core to human activity.

So for two days, the five campers have each had forty-five minutes in which to add to the story all alone. Why? Because it is a way to be get one’s voice out amid the alphas. Today, they wrote as a unit to extend the story. Why? Because they needed to practice hearing one another and incorporating new ideas. The group write will vacillate back and forth between these two stances, both vital, until we reach the end of the story or the end of camp. Is it any wonder there’s some counseling going around?

Meanwhile, we are on day 3 of A is for Adapt, and the children are engaging in some fan fiction. We are on day 3 of B is for Business, and the children are learning about creative directors and art directors. One assignment is to create a book jacket for a novel with which they are familiar.

A huge facet of book camp is and has ever been a setting of the bones. An establishment deep down in the marrow that they are loved and respected as individuals, that they are each worthy of their own ideas, that there are people in this life with whom they can be all of themselves.

Sometimes, like this morning, those things must be overtly stated. The campers must be provided a clear and present opportunity to see those things in one another. So that they can go out into the world and see it in the people they encounter there.

Then it’s back to “Not Parent Approved” and Forza 7 and bike rides and playing moon with dominoes and catching fireflies and stargazing and anime and watching movies and eating junk and all the things. Because that’s life. Hard and then soft. Harshness followed by comfort. Healing and breaking and healing in different ways. Growing with the pain and the pleasure and all the rest.

But never hollow. Never purposeless. Not until they must. Not unless life forces them to experience it being so. And, privileged, these five are rarely forced to experience the difficulty of life head on, gut first, in all its sometimes hollow, sometimes purposeless gore. I wish no kids (and no one) ever did.

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