Book Camp Life

Book Camp 2019, Saying Goodbye

You might not think book camp goodbyes would be too difficult, since we are all relatives and will see each other numerous times before next year’s camp. [Four of us live in the same house!] You would be right…and wrong. Book camp is so different from afternoons together, holidays, or birthday parties. It’s such a concentrated time of artistic trust and development that we can’t help but be both relieved and saddened when it ends. Yet, the kids believe that book camp will happen next year, and so they have this wonderful ability to wax over their sadness of endings with the joy of a new (albeit far off) beginning.

I carry a kernel of sadness a bit heavier. I expect next year’s book camp to happen. But I know it could NOT happen. That’s the curse of growing up and growing old: learning that far-off joyful new beginnings can be lost and lasts come when you least expect them. I don’t tell the children this because they have the right to discover such inelegant truths in their own times.

We eschewed healthy breakfast this morning in favor of a favorite local donut shop, What a Donut! There, the kids chose a breakfast protein and a sweet pastry. We sat at a long string of tables and I handed out today’s prompts. Our prompts were for drawing instead of writing: donut tools, donut people, donut homes, donut plants, donut animals.

Upon arriving home, we cleaned up and partly packed then settled into the fort for reading each opus. The kids asked me to read their works, which ranged from about 300 words to 4,000 words. They were each inventive and individual. We gave brief feedback after each reading and finished just as the grandparents arrived.

A few last pics, several goodbye hugs, and the nieces and grandparents whisked out the door. They returned moments later to retrieve one more item. Then they were off. And Book Camp 2019 ended.

I feel bittersweet. And it has only a little to do with all the massive sugar consumption this week. I feel such a deep hope that the kids each remember this book camp with fondness. Forgetting any hurts or disappointments or disputes. As for me, I store up all these things in my heart and long for our next book camp with excitement and wonder.

Book Camp Life

Book Camp 2019, Day 5

Content warning: Discussion of former suicidal ideation and plan.

Today was our last full day together, so we did things a little differently. First, no critiques! Second, no chores or curriculum like instruments, typing, or math.

Our theme today is cookbook poetry. Each kid brought a recipe from which to write a poem. Before we tackled our own odes to recipes, we worked on a group-written poem. We also traded prompts and wrote poems about such excellent topics as feet and toothbrushes.

Then a joke about a sex talk turned into an actual sex talk, which was essentially this: Sex is good not bad. It’s not a milestone but a relationship. Sex is most definitely not a bad word or embarrassing but must be approached safely and with consent. They can come to me any time about anything and find listening ears and nonjudgment, as well as care when they need it.

This morphed into a suicide talk. Because I’m just that talented and fun.

They said they all knew about my previous battle againt suicidal ideation. I told them that my foiled almost-attempt was the best thing that has happened to me, because it clarified that I want to be here, on this plane of existence, for the hard stuff. My eldest nephew died two years after that foiling. I sat in his hospital room and told him that I survived for just that moment. For all the hard moments. And the great ones. And the ordinary ones.

I have this theory that adults begin to self reject when it comes to adolescents. We tend to feel like maybe they are disinterested in us. So we back off. I’ve made that mistake, and I don’t intend to repeat it with these nieces and sons of mine. The output they demonstrate changes. The interests shift. Their individual ecosystems grow. But I intend to stay planted within those ecosystems. I will not self reject when it comes to them. So far, at 11-14, they insist they will be doing book camp until they are 80 (my intervening death from old age notwithstanding) and want to know whether future spouses marry in to the camp. I’ll keep planning them until they stop coming. And we’ll continue to have interesting, complicated, sometimes difficult conversations during book camp and other times.

Why am I sharing any of this? Because my theme this year is planting and watering. That’s what book camp is. It’s planting. Love, memories, friendship, knowledge, tradition, trust. And watering them year after year.

So, that was ten minutes they’d never get back, and they dissolved into giggles when it was over. We still had a full day of work ahead. But first, we wanted to make our own treat for the day. After much discussion, we all agreed on lemon cake balls and set out to hunt down the ingredients. Two grocery stores later and we returned home to start cake baking. While the first cake cooled, four kids took a walk and the fifth stayed home.

When we finally started our recipe poems, everyone was ready to settle in again. Poem forms included: acrostic, haiku, limerick, AABB rhyming, and free verse. They were silly and wonderful and made us hungry.

After completing our cake balls, we ate some as a reward, of course. A few of the kids still had some work to do on an opus or two, but then the kids scattered to devices until supper. We rounded out the day with mangoes, watermelon, and Captain Marvel.

Here are some of the suggestions for Book Camp 2020: character development all week; movie adaptations; publishing process simulation; group opus; picture books; adapting short stories from original screenplays; and cookbook camp. We had one valiant recommendation for a two-week book camp. And they want to make the prompt jars and group writes permanent. The fort has to be permanent, obviously. When I asked them about tours in the future, they enthusiastically affirmed their interest to visit both publishers and academicians to discuss writing across the disciplines. See? Just when I think they’re not into something, they tell my how very wrong I am.

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