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Writers’ Foundation expands kids program

Stewart Oksenhorn

In Hollywood, the conventional wisdom has it, everyone has a screenplay. From Aspen to Basalt, it seems nearly every youngster is soon to have a screenplay. Or a collection of poems. Or maybe a short story in progress. At least that appears to be the aim of the Aspen Writers’ Foundation.The Writers’ Foundation, which has been presenting a summer writers conference for most of the past three decades, has been inundated in recent years with requests to expand its kids programs. The organization, founded in 1975, has offered its Scribblers & Scribes summer program for 15 years. But a broad chorus of teachers, parents and even kids has been calling out for expanded opportunities for young writers.”We found a lot of interest, both from kids and parents, to have some extracurricular writing activities,” said Jamie Abbott, the foundation’s director of programs. “And we get lots of requests from teachers, schools, counselors for extra writing help – whether it’s a kid who’s shown a lot of promise and they’re looking to encourage that, or it might be someone who’s struggling. Or anything in between.”To those ends, the Writers’ Foundation in February hired Jordan Dann as its education coordinator. Dann, who taught a Scribes & Scribblers class last summer, has revamped that program to give each class a more specific focus.”The way it’s been in the past is they’re general writing camps, and each instructor had their own style and flavor of teaching. But it was general – no themes, essentially,” said Dann, whose graduate degree in theater education gave her experience in writing and teaching. “I felt what the camps needed was a trajectory, to have a focus and a final project.”So Dann has not only lined up a crew of instructors but a slate of distinct classes as well, for children 8 and older. The Art of Books and Words, taught by Dann and art instructor Deborah Jones, will have students write in the morning and turn their words into a form of visual art in the afternoon: poetry into collage, a short story into a cartoon strip. The two-week course ends with a bookbinding project.The Art of Books and Words represents another sort of expansion for the Writers’ Foundation. The course will be at the Wyly Community Art Center in Basalt, reflecting the desire to offer programs for kids farther downvalley.Writing for Stage & Screen will focus on character development, dialogue and setting. The class will end with the writing and acting out of a screenplay or stage play. Columns, Rants and Raves, led by Aspen Times columnist Meredith Cohen, will explore how to turn personal experiences into opinion pieces.Beyond the summer, Dann is working to create a group of tutors to offer to schools. That initiative has begun, but Dann is looking to formalize and expand it. The Writers’ Foundation also seeks to expand its Writers in the Schools program. That program brought such writers as Frank McCourt and Tobias Wolff into local classrooms in the past year; the goal is to bring all writers who appear in Winter Words events to talk with students.The Writers’ Foundation also sponsors two student publications of words and images: the Basalt-based Voices & Visions, and Aspen’s “nepsa merge.”Scribes & Scribblers camps begin July 10, and the second session begins July 24. For further information on Aspen Writers Foundation programs, including Scribes & Scribblers, visit http://www.aspenwriters.org.Stewart Oksenhorn’s e-mail address is stewart@aspentimes.com


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