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Writing workshop helps teenagers find their creative side

Senior Staff Writer

Published: Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, July 11, 2012 17:07

Teen writing camp

Courtesy of Terry Thaxton

Teens learn about different areas of creative writing through a summer workshop program offered by the Literary Arts Partnership.

The Literary Arts Partnership is showing teens that imagination is the key to writing by offering two creative writing workshops this summer for teenagers between the ages of 14 and 18. Twice a day from July 9-13, the LAP trainers are teaching two-hour sessions; each session focuses on a different area of creative writing in hopes of getting the participants interested in writing for fun.

LAP is a project that matches university students with community members or organizations where they lead creative writing activities. It works in conjunction with the Service Learning Initiative. Academic Service Learning is more than just volunteering.

UCF English instructor and founder of LAP Terry Thaxton said that it’s where students can connect what they are learning in the classroom with a need that’s in the community.

“I started it kind of accidentally back in 2003,” Thaxton said. “A colleague at FSU actually was directing a program called Run Away with Words in Tallahassee, and she asked if I would be interested in running a workshop for them here in Orlando.”

In response to that, Thaxton started a workshop, the Pace Center for Girls, which is an alternative high school for girls in Winter Park. She recruited five of her best creative writing students to work with her at the school.

After the experience, a few students who volunteered suggested that it be part of a class curriculum. That led to two workshop courses offered at UCF — poetry and fiction — working in conjunction to send the students to continue to volunteer at the Coalition for the Homeless. Some students who were no longer in Thaxton’s classes voiced that they still wanted to participate, which spawned the LAP.

“I formed the Literary Arts Partnership so that you didn’t have to be in my class to do it,” Thaxton said. 

The workshops are meant to inspire young writers and make it interesting to them. At these workshops, participants won’t be getting down to the nitty-gritty of grammar and syntax; instead, they are going to focus on the imagination and aspects of storytelling, Thaxton said.

“We focus on the elements of literary craft. For example, we work with imagery, descriptive language, figurative language, character development, concrete description and point of view,” Thaxton said. “We work with all of those things so that students get excited about writing, and once participants are excited about writing they want to write well.”

The workshops, one titled Story and Script and the other Poetry and Creative Nonfiction, are being held at the UCF Continuing Education building in Research Park. Martin Malpica, the assistant division director for the Division of Continuing Education, said that UCF Continuing Education has partnered with the Literary Arts Partnership to offer these summer workshops to bring UCF to the community.

“The Continuing Education division provides credit and non-credit programs to make accessible the University’s resources for the re-education, training, professional advancement and personal growth of those in our community, state and nation,” Malpica said.

The Division of Continuing Education runs the logistics to have a successful summer program, Malpica said.

“Our teen participants already have a gift and desire for creative writing,” Malpica said. “Our goal is to give them the opportunity, in a college setting, to develop their own style.”

Thaxton selected five trainers who are coaching the participants at each workshop. Three of the five are current UCF students, Thaxton said. The other two are UCF alumni.

One trainer has already worked with Thaxton in the past and has been looking forward to working with her again this summer.

“The workshop for this summer I ended up doing after applying for the position with Terry,” said Aimee Camp, a UCF graduate with a bachelor’s degree in English creative writing. “I’m sure my experience working at Passport Charter was a big plus in considering me for working at this summer’s workshops.”

Camp trains participants at the Story and Script morning session workshop, and she already has a method for helping young writers become interested by boosting their confidence and giving constructive criticism at the same time.

“I try to make sure that I give a lot of individual feedback to teens with their writing,” Camp said. “Being able to speak to them individually helps to address any concerns they have about their writing, and also to help encourage them and complement strengths that they may not have seen on their own. We are also doing group work to create a movie, turning a script that they write and work on into a film that they can share.”

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