Every Duck Has a Story… Free Creative Writing Camp in Gulfport

In 1983 I was headed for middle school. Swimming around in my 10-year-old head were vague notions that I would one day “be a writer.” I had no clue exactly what that entailed; I certainly couldn’t imagine that as the rest of the world poured themselves into the local bar for happy hour on Friday night, I’d be hunkered down in the BatCave, typing away as Calypso curled around my legs and plopped her chin on my foot. I had no clue what “being a writer” meant, but I clearly didn’t understand it meant baring my soul for money and having editors treat it as a commodity.

Had I known those things, though, I wouldn’t have changed a thing. Even at a naive 10, I had the inklings of what it felt like to have a compulsion to write the stories I saw in my head. I knew the voices in my head weren’t real, exactly, but I also knew, to paraphrase Morgan Freeman, the things that happened to the voices in my head really happened to them. My imagination was real to the people I imagined.

That summer, my mom sent me to a creative writing kids workshop at the  Clearwater Public Library.   I can’t recall who taught it, but 31 years later I remember some of things the lady leading the workshop told me.

The most important thing she told me? That I could find stories everywhere. That squirrel in the tree? He has a story. Tell it. (Little did she know I would take her so seriously and write about squirrels, pigs and ducks…)

I make my living telling stories. Most are true, but the most fun I have writing are the ones that aren’t. The real stories of real people who exist only in my head. I will forever owe my parents – my mother and father alike are wonderful, creative, funny, and wildly intelligent people, and they gave me every opportunity to be the same sort of person – as well as a host of other adults who fostered that creativity in the 10-year-old me. I earn my living as a writer, and it’s because of experiences like that creative writing workshop so long ago.

That’s why I am thrilled to lead a week-long creative writing camp for kids, co-sponsored by Keep St. Pete Lit and Gulfport’s City of Imagination. Keep St. Pete Lit celebrates and promotes our literary community – that’s greater St. Pete, not just the city proper. They’re all about getting kids to read and write, too. City of Imagination supports the arts in Gulfport (seriously, that’s their mission statement, short and sweet and awesome.)

We didn’t have a lot of money when I was a kid. I was lucky that workshop was free. Because Keep St. Pete Lit, City of Imagination, and I all believe every kid should have a chance to be creative, no one’s charging for this camp, which means kids can come for free, as long as they’re heading into fourth through ninth grade (we’ll totally accept your donations, but we don’t require them.) The camp will meet from 9 a.m. until 11 a.m. July 28 through August 1. All you have to do is email me to sign up for the class; we do have to limit class size, so don’t wait until the last minute. 

I promise your kids will have fun being silly and writing things. I promise I’ll show them how to be braver in their writing. I absolutely do not promise they will learn anything, although I can’t stop them…

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I write. I take pictures. I love my dog. I love Florida. My 2016 book, 'Backroads of Paradise' did really well for the publisher and now I feel a ridiculous amount of pressure to finish the second book.