Book Camp Life

Book Camp, Day 0

Welcome to Book Camp 2020!! Our theme, which the campers have only partially known for weeks: A, B, C, Ps. But we also refer to it as quarantine camp, since our campers and I have been quarantined for two weeks before today. Now it’s masks off and time to party work!

For the uninitiated, Book Camp is a camp I host at my home in the summer for my three boys and two nieces during which we study storytelling, craft, books, and adaptations, as well as life and race and gender and equity and whatever else comes up. The world tends to give us plenty to discuss. Sometimes it is short–last year we had four full days. Sometimes it is long–this year we have twelve full days!

A few years ago we added a fort. The first fort was a bit of a lean-to. Last year, it became a structure. This year, we’ve installed some improvements: LED lights, back rails, refrigerator, floor pillows (Target has so many designs and they are amazing!), fort friends. And by we I mean my lovely husband, obviously.

Last year we added a prompt jar–a jar full of random words we draw out each morning to kickstart our writing. This year, we will each write six-sentence stories using the words drawn every day.

We began a new registration this year in which each person had temperature checks and ear checks. Why ears? Because my sister is a doctor and she can get that wax out, that’s why. The kids signed up for their individual times to play instruments, to fulfill their group write obligation, to be first player on the X-Box, to have one-on-one time with me, and help with lunches and suppers. They checked in their devices and instruments and bikes and games and snacks. We’re going to have a ton of evening innings this year, as outings are, well, out.

Generally on this blog, you know my children as Eldest, Middling, and Third. My nieces have been known by various code names. This year, I’m using the snack they brought to share to identify them, so from oldest to youngest we have: Wasabi, Figgy, Cheese Ball, Cheeze Ball, and Twiz.

The other official acts today: welcome gifts, rules reading, camp format reveal, group write framework, first assignment receipt, fort tour, and special note-giving.

Lights out isn’t for another 4.5 hours, and the X-Box is barely warm. But in a little bit, the assistant director (aka lovely husband) will serve us his famous french toast and we will tuck in with a cool and cozy inning, away from the massive heat outdoors and the masking constraints further afield.

If you have followed this blog, you may be wondering how on earth this two-week camp will work with my work. There are several key factors: 1) the kids are ages 12-15 and all that that implies; 2) this ain’t our first rodeo; 3) my teleworking means I’m close enough if needed throughout business hours; 4) the kids’ structured independent and group scheduling throughout business hours means I’m not on book-camp time; 5) well-designed rules, particularly concerning the office; and 6) book camp intensives before and after working hours.

It should be a singular book camp for all the reasons. In a time when kids have lost a lot–friend time, overnight camps, day camps, vacations, freedom, closeness, etc–it feels awesome to provide something they have anticipated with tremendous joy. As Figgy said while walking through the house, “This is gonna be a GREAT Book Camp!”

The big blue book of assignments

P.S. I got a whistle, a megaphone, and a personal air purifier. My camper-parents are the best! Without their support, this annual event could not happen. Thank you!!

P.P.S. It should go without saying, but I’ll say it anyway: Any brand names appearing in this blog are trademarks of the companies that own those trademarks. The appearance of any product does not imply endorsement and none of it is paid placement, though if anybody wants to pay me to place megaphones, Pillow Fort, or Cheese Balls on this site, you know where to find me!

Book Camp Life

Book Camp 2016, Day 3

Cousin book camp works a bit differently from other book camps. First, cousins stay overnight for seven days. Other book camps are a full day or a number of half days. Second, cousin book camp includes movies, fun outings, and a number of snow cones. Other book camps are shorter and more focused and, sadly, offer no snow cones (yet…).

Yesterday my sister asked me, “Do you find it harder to do book camp now with moody preteens?”

I find it easier in some ways. Two years ago the youngest was 6 and the oldest were 9, so we made picture books from ideas to finished words and art. Last year, we focused on a book concept – “The Borrowers” – and applied it to life. We examined perspective. At the doughnut shop we drew something that might exist in a town made of doughnuts. At the market, we found a vegetable to draw personified. We also found cuts of meat to draw as something other, like a pit of worms. Everything revolved around considering new perspectives.

This year, since my summer theme for my own boys is craft (the skill in making), we are studying the craft of written storytelling. We have studied plot structure and character. Specifically, the children each created (or continued creating) an original character, giving the character vital statistics, fears, wants, dramatic role, strengths, and flaws. Then came today.

Today is an ordinary work day for me and Pamela Young. She planned to come over, since these are her grandkids. So that we could get work done, we practiced writing sprints all day. Twenty to thirty minutes of writing followed by twenty minutes of activity, free play, or the all-important snow cone.

These were the subjects of three writing sprints:

  • Describe the very best day your character has ever had in its history
  • Describe the very worst day your character has ever had in its history
  • Describe who or what or what event has impacted you (the camper) most in your life

For the final sprint of the day, we followed these instructions:

  1. Consider your character’s fears. Choose the most motivating fear.
  2. Consider your character’s wants. Choose the most motivating want.
  3. Consider your character’s quintessential trait. (For example, Harry Potter is the quintessential wizard – not because he’s the greatest but because he lived when no one else did. Or, Sherlock Holmes is the quintessential detective because he has the very highest ability to deduce information.)
  4. Write about how your character’s quintessence makes your character’s most motivating fear butts against your character’s most motivating want. (For example, Harry Potter most wants [arguably] to be an ordinary wizard but he is the most extraordinary wizard because he lived. His biggest fear [arguably] is losing people he loves, and that butts up against his biggest want of being ordinary because he must perform extraordinary magic or act in outlandish ways to keep people safe.)

This final sprint was certainly the hardest thing we’ve done in all our book camps together. But it may also be the most vital. Without fears, wants, and quintessence, a character lacks the dynamic spark to tell a story.

Then we went to the library for an acrylics class. We’ll round our day with a movie we can use to apply our learning of structure and character, pizza, and brain rest.

What did you do today?

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