The Prince Albert Teen Writing Experience provides a forum for talented young wordsmiths to improve their writing skills through presentations, readings, group discussions, field trips and writing assignments.
The annual summer school, which also runs in Saskatoon, Regina and Moose Jaw, is co-ordinated by the Sage Hill Writing Experience in partnership with JMCPL. The City of Prince Albert, Saskatchewan Arts Board, Saskatchewan Lotteries and Canada Council for the Arts provide funding and support.
“Every one of the writers here has applied to Sage Hill with samples of their work and a statement about their interest in writing,” facilitator Lynda Monahan said.
“It’s an application process and it’s juried, so they already have to have some interest in writing and have shown that they have some skills with writing to be accepted into the program.”
Six students in total are attending the P.A. camp this year from Jul. 23-27. Some are local residents, while others hail from as far away as Nipawin, Candle Lake and Shellbrook. However, each student has a unique style and approach to writing.
Carly Fraser, 15, is a budding novelist whose favourite authors include J.K. Rowling, John Green and local legend Lucy Maud Montgomery. She plans on drafting a 50,000-word novel in August for Camp NaNoWriMo, a summer version of the internet-based creative writing project National Novel Writing Month.
“I had the idea for the novel before I came here,” said Fraser. “But the exercises that we’ve done … like what everyone knows about the character (versus) what I know about the character … that really helped me, and I’m going to do that with the rest of the characters in my novel.”
Aspiring poet Alex Henry, 16, first met Monahan in a creative writing workshop where the facilitator was teaching at her school. Although she was too young to attend at the time — the workshop was aimed at students in grades 10 to 12 — her creative writing teacher let her in anyway.
To have an actual structured class and learn how to write different ways, it just makes you want to do better with yourself. - Alex Henry
“I’ve been writing since I was like six,” Henry said. “So to have an actual structured class and learn how to write different ways, it just makes you want to do better with yourself.”
When Henry was a bit older and the teacher told her she should attend the Teen Writing Experience, she didn’t argue.
“The best thing that (Monahan has) taught me so far is to be confident with yourself and not be afraid … I try to write stuff that’s out of the box, and something that’s almost out of my comfort zone.”
Novelist Amy Rempel, 17, specializes in fantasy fiction, as does Jessica Johansen, 15, who was not present on the day of reporting. Both are veterans of the Sage Hill program.
“I’m a Harry Potter fan, but I have been trying to do more realistic stuff,” said Rempel. “This is my third year … I’m the old-timer.”
The youngest attendees this year were Raylene Cook, 14, and Carolyn Gunville, 13. Each said that writing offers them a way to channel intense emotions into art.
“I started writing like two months ago,” said Gunville. “I wrote a lot of poetry and a lot of stories … It kind of just is a way for me to vent anger and sadness and stuff that happened when I was a kid.”
Earlier this week, the class took field trips to the Prince Albert Historical Museum and the Mann Art Gallery for creative inspiration. This Friday afternoon at 2 p.m. they will engage in a reading of their work at the JMCPL that is open to anyone who wishes to attend.
“It’s a public reading and we would love lots of people to come out and hear these talented writers,” said Monahan. “They’ll be reading the work that they’ve done this week and some previous work too.”