“If you want to really hurt your parents, and you don’t have the nerve to be gay, the least you can do is go into the arts,” wrote Kurt Vonnegut in A Man Without a Country, “You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.”
For many teenagers, writing is an outlet used to express a newfound frustration with the miserable reality of high school. One is young enough to still be confined, but old enough for certain adult responsibilities (driving, working, etc.). Teenagers’ naivety impedes their decision-making skills, but they’re smart enough to be self-aware. They’re at just the right age to realize that the world isn’t fair, and they don’t like it one bit. Of course, there are few things adolescents love more than rebellion and counterculture. So, in the typical teenager fashion, they decide to fight the [insert construct/system/group /stereotype/-archy here] through their writing—something that is entirely in their control.
This writing is sourced from what is important to such teenagers, resulting in a product completely unique to other forms of writing. This is just one of the reasons I am so thrilled to be working to make the Duquesne University Summer Writing Camp come together. I can’t wait until June when I’ll get to meet the campers and see what they have to say through their writing. Until then, however, there is much to do.
Over the past few weeks, my main objective has been mass marketing the program to local high schools. It’s still quite early in the application process, but my goal is spread the word about the camp to relevant educators, who can then reach out to potentially interested students.
After completing my listserv of librarians and English teachers, I sent out the email that I had prepared earlier, which invited teachers to print flyers about the program and to help encourage certain students to apply. The mass email has already prompted a few questions and requests for paper flyers, as well as (I hope) a couple of new applicants.
In addition to emailing local school districts, I also compiled a listserv of the campers that attended last year and are still of an eligible age to return this summer. To them, I wrote what I intended to be a more personal email, with the intention of coming off as least robotic as possible. To achieve this, I used language that implied openness and approachability (e.g. “we look forward to receiving your application and hope you will not hesitate to reach out with any questions or concerns”). I also specifically avoided the passive voice (e.g. “we will extend the Early Bird special until March 15th,” rather than, “the Early bird special was extended until March 15th”). I learned nuanced little writing tips like these in my ENGL 300W course: “Critical Issues in Literary Study.”
As for the content of my letter, I simply expressed the university’s pleasure in having them attend last summer, and invited them to reapply, if interested. I also provided application specifics and other information about this year’s camp.
My next step will be to review applications, including teacher recommendations as this weekend will mark the official end of the “Early Bird Special,” a deadline which offers the advantage of a reduced registration fee. As I check the writing camp email each morning, it makes me happy to see new applicants trickling into the inbox. I greatly anticipate reading their letters of recommendation and setting them up to attend the camp this summer!