A Week to Remember: The Setting

The last year has been building up to this past week. In the summer of ’08, I started as a volunteer at Downers Grove Public Library, teaching a  young writers’ series which grew into a year-long group that met monthly, I was then recruited by Friends of the Gifted and Talented to teach a Young Writers’ Workshop for their Super Saturday Enrichment classes; then bumped up to offering two Super Saturday classes in the winter of ’09.

One of the mom’s sat on the board for Helping Girls Navigate Adolescence and asked me to be their key note speaker for Chick Chat. My son’s 4th grade teacher then asked if I’d give her class a taste of the writer’s workshop and that brought about a meeting with the school’s principal. Through all this I have envisioned myself running a year-round meeting place for young writers to gather: for a quiet nook to write in, a group of like-minded peers available for feedback and a source of inspiration and sound writing instruction.

The Summer Studio I planned and taught last week is so very close to my dream…

As my son, David and I walked the sunny path to my subdivision’s Clubhouse, I took in the sights and sounds around me. In stark contrast to my early morning rush hour commute (30 miles one-way), the morning was sweet with summer scents: faint chlorine from the pool, suntan lotion from early sunbathers, fresh cut grass and new school supplies.

Of course, the old familiar nerves were there: was I prepared enough? What do the parents expect of me and my teaching? Do the kids really want to be here or were they signed up by over zealous parents?

The Clubhouse was large in space, but furnished to be comfortable, couches, armchairs, a floor to ceiling brick fireplace splitting the room in two. Ten folding chairs were arranged in a circle on the ceramic tile and I propped my dry erase board on David’s music stand, as a make-shift presentation board.

The glass-topped tables in the room were scattered with my collection of writing books: The Writer’s Book of Matches, Bird by Bird, Writing Down the Bones, A Writer’s Book of Days, From Inspiration to Publication, On Writing Well, Pep Talks, Warnings and Screeds, What If? and several more that have guided and inspired my writing path, so far.

Clipboards, notebooks, pencil boxes  and colored Sharpies rested on the long folding table, about to become instruments of the craft.

An industrial size multi-pack of juice boxes and a case of bottled water awaited the young scribes in the kitchenette’s refrigerator. Flavored crackers and a variety of mini cookies, pretzels and bagged popcorn hid in grocery bags on the counter tops.

My lesson plan, typed out and scrawled with last-minute notes sat on my folding chair. Two YA novels with specific passages tabbed lie on the ceramic floor at the foot of my chair. A red folder held the handouts of the day, all focused on our theme of Characters.

Some new characters walked into the clubhouse and into my world that morning. And for you, my readers, I will share the highlights of this past week.

To be continued tomorrow…


Filed under Advice, books, teaching

4 responses to “A Week to Remember: The Setting

  1. Liz

    This is great, I’m so glad you’re going to share all the details! Congrats to you for doing this, Mary Jo. It’s wonderful to read how it (and you!) have grown from how Young Writers began. (And, I would have LOVED this as a kid.)

  2. I can’t wait to hear about it!!!

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