The write stuff |

The write stuff

Alison Berkley

Despite my parents’ incessant requests to “stop acting like a 12-year-old,” I now realize I never did.That’s the only way to explain why hanging out with a bunch of kids during the Scribes & Scribblers Teen Writing Camp for The Aspen Writers’ Foundation (plug) couldn’t make me happier.Every day from 1-4 p.m. I get to teach 12- to 14-year-olds what I can about writing (not to be confused with “riding”). Doing the camp thing brings me back to the summers of my youth, those long hot days filled with public swimming pools and bug spray and pink lemonade and Chips O’Hoy cookies (I ate six this afternoon just to refresh my memory as to how good they really are). Simple pleasures in life that even Princesses do truly appreciate (Prada shoes aside). I can so relate to kids. They are a serious breath of fresh air compared to all my friends who are either pregnant, recently engaged, or still single and obsessed with getting laid. My friends ramble on about the same self-absorbed topics, like childbirth (“I’ve heard they have you in a squatting position so the baby’s head doesn’t get tangled up in your fallopian tubes.”); weddings (“My sister has this weird chest bone that sticks out and she’s really self conscious about it, so all the bridesmaids are going to have to wear black wool turtlenecks, even though the wedding is in August.”) or the never-ending manhunt (“He didn’t call me back, but he gave me ‘the look’ when I saw him at Chelsea’s after last call the other night. What do you think that means?”).It’s gotten to the point where I’ve stopped answering the phone and can no longer remember how I survived before they invented caller ID. Unlike my boring friends, these kids are way cool. They’re the bomb. We can talk about all sorts of stuff. Like yesterday, a couple of them got into a heated debate over the upcoming election. “I respect what you’re saying, but it’s important you learn everything you can about both sides so you can make an informed decision,” said Rio Crandall, 12, a student from the Aspen Community School. “It’s all about balance. That’s what our whole political system is based on in the first place!”I could totally picture her in 10 years standing behind some podium in Washington, D.C., bellowing into a microphone at the top of her lungs, shaking a fist over her head. Or maybe she’ll be cruising around in a Volkswagen bus, going door-to-door canvassing for PIRG or Greenpeace. And I had that vision before she yelled at me for throwing my soda can into the garbage.”Hello, you can RECYCLE that,” she screamed in horror, as if I had just murdered a puppy. “What are you THINKING?” It’s not only about politics and the environment with these kids. They’re into other stuff, too. “There’s nothing more beautiful than Paris at night,” said Pia Velasco, who at 12, is trilingual and moving to Mexico City after stints in Manhattan and Paris. “It’s such a tranquil, peaceful city, yet there’s still so much culture, so much to do.” I told her I would very much like to visit Paris one day myself and maybe learn another language after I retire from early retirement.Of course there are the skate rats, with oversized feet stuffed into huge sneakers and baggy cargo pants and baseball caps with the bill bent so it shadows their face just so. Thank god they’re a little more on my level because I was really starting to feel out of it. Steve-o Pike, a 14-year-old Aspen local, gave me the lowdown on every terrain/skatepark in the valley. He even built a rainbow rail out of an old basketball hoop so he can snowboard in his back yard. How cool is that!?Me and his buddy Clark Kimball, a feisty 13-year-old who is visiting from Austin, shot the breeze for like a half hour yesterday, talking about snowboarding and skateboarding, the really important things in life. It’s good to see someone else has their priorities straight. Let’s not leave out surfing. Gavin Brown is all about it. He’s 14 and from Santa Monica, Calif., so he really gets what it means to ride the face of a wave every day if you can. We regaled in the whole longboard versus shortboard debate, so I could relive my days as a California surfer girl. Ah, the sacrifices one must make to live in Aspen.And then there’s the writing. As if anyone knew young teens would care so much about that? I watched, in delight, as Taleen “Twiggy” Kennedy, 14, filled page after page in her notebook shortly after making the declaration, “I have nothing to write” just as she does every day before practically setting her notebook on fire with the friction from her fast-moving pen. She and Justice Tirapelli, also 14, both want to write songs and participate in the profound impact that music has on people’s lives. At least I think that’s how Justice put it.These kids aren’t just thinking about the future, they are the future. And let me tell you, we’re in good hands. Colleen Guinn, Alex Hartman, Annie Hines, Maureen Perry, Dylan Reiling – you guys rule. Y’all are setting a spectacular example for the future generations and for me. Like the other day, Olivia Fanizza, who is 14-going-on-24, ever-so-nonchalantly mentioned she would like to go to medical school to study epidemics so she can help ailing countries one day. That really got me thinking: What do I want to be when I grow up?Even though it’s August, the Princess can’t wait to go snowboarding again. Send e-mail to

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