Photo Courtesy of the ZSR Library
Photo Courtesy of the ZSR Library

Writer’s Camp Grants Students’ Wishes of Publication

Writer’s Camp is a little-known library outreach program that has occurred twice, once in January of 2016 and again on Feb. 9, 2018. I have been lucky enough to be selected as a participant both times. Every time I tell my peers what it is — an all-night writing excursion starting on Friday at 7 p.m. and officially ending at 7 a.m. on Saturday – I’m greeted with smirks and told I’m “so cool.”

But it really is. Being in the library during the week and studying is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what the library offers: the huge amount of materials made available to us, the comfy chairs and insightful renovations, the thousands of books in the stacks waiting for us to glean some inspiration from them. When your only purpose is to write and you’ve got all night, the library is an oasis.

Writer’s Camp was not created by ZSR. The full story is online on the ZSR’s website. It is the brain child of Jane McGonigal, an American game designer and author. Hu Womack, Associate Librarian in Instruction and Outreach, is the unofficial hype man for Writer’s Camp and reminded me, “Writers and libraries are natural partners. This biennial event is one of my favorites. Writers’ Camp at ZSR not only supports emerging student writers and publishes their work, but also allows ZSR to work with amazing campus partners like the Writing Center, OPCD and THRIVE.” Writer’s Camp is a group effort; it wouldn’t be possible without the ZSR, the Writer’s Camp Committee, the Writing Center, the OPCD, THRIVE, the student authors, Library Partners Press and Wake Forest University Press.

It is in the library after closing that the participants are welcomed to enjoy some inspiring words from the Director of the Writing Center, Dr. Ryan Shirey, some free coffee in a beautiful Writer’s Camp mug provided by the Dean of the Library, Tim Pyatt, and a night free of distraction. Tutors from the Writing Center are available throughout the night to offer guidance and a friendly face to respectfully review the late-night writing. Dean Pyatt reflected on the outreach event.

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“Writers Camp is one of my favorite events hosted by ZSR. I admire the passion of the students for writing and the commitment of the writing tutors and my librarians to create an overnight incubator of ideas in ZSR,” Pyatt said.  As I deliver the biscuits in the morning after this night of creativity, I love seeing the sleepy sense of accomplishment on everyone’s faces.  I’m already looking forward to Writers Camp 3 in 2020.”

The Writer’s Camp is important for so many reasons. As a student I can speak to the great sense of pride and fulfillment that comes from having my creative work published. Authors dream of publication and Writer’s Camp grants that wish. It is amazing to see my name in print in a book and to know it only cost me one night. Shirey expressed a similar sentiment.

“Writers’ Camp is fun, but it is important fun … the event gives writers a unique opportunity to make time for the kind of creative work that may be difficult to fit around a busy student schedule … [it’s] a powerful exercise in making meaning. [The Writing Center] loves being a co-sponsor of the event because we enjoy being some of the first audiences and points of critical feedback for creative work that will eventually end up in a book. That’s a tremendous privilege and an interesting change of pace for our tutors.”

I’ve never gone into Writer’s Camp with any idea of what I’m going to write, but sentences turn into paragraphs and before I know it, it’s 2 a.m. and I’m ready to turn in my piece and go home. The best thing about Writer’s Camp is that it gives me a space to take risks and be vulnerable in a way that class work does not. Once the piece is submitted, there’s no going back, and I’m at my most courageous behind my keyboard. All bets are off at Writer’s Camp; however, one thing is for sure, this is work that matters.

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