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Live from Summer Camp!

3 Aug

The usually quiet Milheim house is full of energy once again this week as the Young Writers Program hosts our annual Summer Writing Camps. Beginning July 20, our first ever third and fourth grade campers produced tales, letters, and poems galore, and last week, 47 middle school campers filled the classrooms with conversation, laughter, and creativity.

Elementary Summer Writing Camp 2015

Elementary Summer Writing Camp 2015

Middle school campers worked with five instructors throughout the week to create all kinds of new pieces. Joel Jacobson challenged campers with an advanced course on poetic syntax, sound, and line. With Adrian Molina and Sheree Brown, campers used photographs to inspire surrealist worlds, made black-out poems, and explored connections between poetry and prose. Katie Foster led a course in English-to-English translation, which included sessions of translating emoji and birdsongs. Within an hour of Jessica Long‘s workshop, titled Story Boom, campers had brainstormed ideas for a novel, written an outline, and started the first chapter!

Charlotte starts her novel...

Charlotte starts her novel…

On Thursday, campers revised and practiced their favorite pieces from the week, and Friday morning, Jessica Robblee from Buntport Theater led campers in a performance skills workshop to prepare for the afternoon’s readings.

Middle school campers prepare for Friday's reading in a performance skills workshop.

Middle school campers prepare for Friday’s reading in a performance skills workshop.

We’re having tons of fun! Today, we started all over again with the high school-level camp. High school campers will participate in Poetic Choice, a workshop exploring the choices in line, sound, and syntax available to poets; Flash Magazine, in which campers will conceive and create a magazine in 6 hours; Stories that Shock, in which campers will write a short story with a “killer opening” that creates spine-tingling tension for the reader; and Fodder for Funny, a humor writing workshop.

Thinking, working, creating!

Thinking, working, creating!

All campers will reunite in the fall for the book release of the annual camp anthology, And We Created Worlds 6.0. For information on upcoming Young Writers Program workshops, click here. Until then, happy writing!


A Letter to the YAC

2 Jun

By Eilidh Spery

The dictionary defines a writer as “someone whose work is to write books, poems, stories, etc.,” or “someone who has written something”. This definition is restrictive and not at all representative of what we do as writers. I believe that a writer is someone who spins ink cobwebs across paper, trying to capture half-forgotten dreams, things they can’t see or touch or hear. We chase dandelion seeds of inspiration on the wind, following them for miles of pages, for hours, accompanied by only the sounds of clicking keys or scratching pens.

YWP porchBeing a writer is both difficult and incredible, because when you catch that dream and hold its silver light in your hands, you wield magic.

It seems that being a writer could be a lonely, isolating thing, that writers would be struggling to spin ideas into stories, accompanied only by a notebook or laptop. However, through the Young Authors Collective, I have discovered that this is not so, and I have learned how wonderful writers are. We are a quirky bunch of people, nerds and beauties and geniuses and ramblers. We are filled with wanderlust, with smiles and rain, with the tales of millions of other people and worlds. We daydream and cram information into our heads, cry over characters and make sure to smell new notebooks. Although we are all unique people, are raised differently, live in different parts of the worlds, write differently, we are tied together by our passion to create, to bring something new and lovely into the world. Writers are not empty, lonely people; they overflow with light and beauty.

I am very lucky, therefore, to have been able to spend the last four years around a group of such wonderful, brimming-over people. I have been able to improve my own writing, to be amazed by each of your own words, and to spend my Wednesday afternoons with a fun, sweet, silly group of people. Although writers are sometimes seen as quiet nerds, I think of us as the secret cool kids. We don’t rely on popularity; we know that life is more than that. Life is becoming so lost in a story that you don’t even notice time tickling your ears as it brushes by; it is seeing and enjoying the smallest details in each day; it is creating new worlds full of characters you love so much that they break your heart. It is about being full of light and giving that light to others. So thank you all, from the bottom of my heart. I’ve really enjoyed spending these years with you and will miss you all and your stupendous, heartbreaking, gorgeous literature.

Eilidh Spery has been writing since she penned a mystery story about two detective rats. She first came to the Lighthouse Writers Workshop for a youth workshop, then became a part of the Young Authors Collective from 2011-2015. Now that she has graduated from Jefferson County Open School, she plans to attend the University of Iowa to study English and creative writing, and to pursue writing as a career.


20 Feb

By Lyara Phillips
8th Grade

I always thought I would get another chance to stop those voices in my head, but they had control of my hands. They would pick up a knife and just stab something. Sometimes they would stab public property, but most times it was other people. As my hands would be thrusting the blade back and forth, there would be nothing I could do but cry and beg the voices to stop. One day when I had the control back in my hands, I picked up the blade and got to exact the revenge of those taken souls.

Sometimes Bourbon

20 Feb

By Qairo Bentley
8th Grade

Me and my mom sit on the roof wondering about left-over times. My dad is a ghost, only a simple memory. The war returning again. He was an honor and greatness of the world. He is returned and mom still isn’t the same. She can’t function. She drowns in vodka and whiskey, Bourbon when she’s in pain. It takes her mind away.

Things Change

28 Jan

By Amielia
3rd Grade

Once I had a blue jacket. When I went to my room and opened the door, I looked on my bed and it was gone. I looked everywhere. I even looked in the alleyway dumpster. I could not find it.

When I went back to my room again, it was there. But something was different about it. It was pink and orange in an ugly pattern.

“Arggghhh!” I yelled. “Grrr!”

My sister came in and said, “Shhh!”

The End

The If Not Us Project

12 Nov

All Together Now is a collaboration between Buntport Theater, East High School, Warm Cookies of the Revolution, The Center for Digital Storytelling, and Lighthouse Writers Workshop’s Young Authors Collective. Since early September, these groups have been working together with the goal of exploring and creating awareness around current day civil rights issues. The Lighthouse YAC has created a series of digital broadsides meant to promote If Not Us, a play created and produced by East High theater students.

In the words of Lighthouse instructor Jesaka Long:

Articulating any experience that brushes up against civil rights or social injustice can be difficult. Distilling that experience into less than twenty words can feel like an insurmountable task. Yet that’s the very challenge the Lighthouse Writers Youth Authors Collective took on as their part of shining the light on inequality. The broadsides created by the writers represent the efforts of first sharing a story of an event that created confusion or anger or, less frequently, triumph—and then painstakingly paring hundreds of words down to twenty. Or fewer. These young writers bravely shared their experiences in the hopes of creating a conversation. One word at a time.  

Below is one of our broadsides and the story behind it.


Princess Dress

I let him wear the princess dress when I babysit. We pull it over his head, I Velcro the closure, he leans on my shoulder as he steps into a pair of baby heels. I do the same for his sister. And then together they clatter down the hallway in search of entertainment.

They’re twins, three years old. I’ve watched them since they were born. Neither of them like to share. Both of them like to run around in princess dresses. How am I supposed to tell them she can but he can’t when it makes them happy? It’s not necessarily that the boy wants to wear the dress out of his own reasoning; it’s very likely he sees his sister being a princess and wonders why he can’t be one too. Why he’s forced into superhero costumes, given blue cups instead of pink, directed from the Frozen section at the Disney store to the Cars, why he gets an action figure and his sister gets a doll.

His dad doesn’t like his son in a dress. Or in heels or a tiara. I assume it’s because wearing a dress destroys a three year old’s masculinity. Or maybe his father wants to uphold the idea that a boy should never act like a girl. No pink, no crying, no dress. Why is this limitation enforced so early in a person’s life? Why can one gender not associate with the other without repercussions from society? How soon can we start putting a person’s happiness before the expectations?

I take off his dress before his dad comes home. I leave his sister in the play room and carry him away. With resistance we put back on the muscle tee with sports graphics, tug the sparkly heels off his feet. I wait for him to be done howling for the dress, and then we go back to playing.



11 Sep

By Alicia Cid
8th Grade

Chapter 1

I’m going to tell you a story about Veronica, a very special girl. She is 13. Her hair looks like colorful sun rays, and her big blue eyes are so beautiful. She lives in the mountains with her mother, Jessie, and her brothers. She loves doing extreme sports. She looks like the perfect girl, but she isn’t at all. Her problem is that every single thing she sees is yellow. The trees, the grass, her house.

Her mother is a widow because her husband died three years ago in a traffic accident, but now she has a boyfriend, John, who studies people’s strange health problems. They love each other very much, but John doesn’t love kids, so he doesn’t like Veronica, and Veronica isn’t happy about the idea of having a new dad who doesn’t love kids.

She doesn’t want to tell her problem to her mother because she loves her mom and she doesn’t want to make her crazy. So Veronica is trying to find experts who can solve her problem.

Chapter 2

She has called too many experts, but no one has heard of her problem before. So she is losing her hope little by little. Her face is getting uglier and uglier, now that she doesn’t have a smile on her face. Her eyes are closing, and now she isn’t happy at all. But suddenly one day she finds the number of a person who is an expert on people’s strange problems. She is thinking about calling him, but she realizes that that person is John Clark, her mom’s boyfriend. Once she knows that, she starts to think about this possibility: if she calls him, John will tell her problem to her mom. Veronica is scared. But if she doesn’t call him, maybe she cannot solve her problem ever.

Chapter 3

Finally, she decides to call him, but she won’t tell him that she is Veronica. That’s a good idea, she thinks. So in the afternoon, she calls him and she decides to meet him the next day at Alice’s Café. Just after that, Veronica hears little noises coming from her mom’s room and she understands her mother saying something on the phone:

“No, we can’t tell her…”

“She won’t like it…”

“Let’s keep this a secret…”

“I love you, John…mwah.”

Veronica knows that the person who is talking to her mom is John, and she knows that they’re talking about a secret, so now she wants to know it. So she decides to talk with her mother.

“Hi, Mom,” she says.

“Hi, Veronica. WHat are you doing here?” her mom answers.

“I think you have to tell me something.”

“No…Why do you think this?”

“I have heard you talking to someone about something secret…”

“Oh! Yes…I was talking to John about…we have a surprise for you. We are going to go on a walk tonight, all together!”

Veronica didn’t believe her mom. She thought she could learn the truth by talking to John the next day. “Oh! That’s a good idea!” she said to her mom.

“Yes, I know.”

“Thanks! Bye-bye!”

Chapter 4

Next day she was waiting for John at Alice’s Café. But now Veronica’s name was “Victoria,” and she had put on some accessories so John would not recognize her. When he arrived, they started to talk about “Victoria’s” problem. They had no problems talking at first, except that John was impolite and shot her down.

But suddenly “Victoria” asked him, “Why are you so happy?”

He answered, “I’m marrying my girlfriend!!!”

Now Veronica is in another world, thinking too many things at the same time. She feels frustrated and sad, but she also feels happy because now she knows her mom’s secret. Her sadness could defeat her happiness in a few seconds, so she starts to run, run away from the café. And after running all over the city, she arrives home.

Chapter 5

Veronica feels bad. She didn’t need to meet John. Now in her head is the worst thing that can happen ever. The horrible John is going to marry her fantastic mom. Veronica wants to talk to her mom seriously because she doesn’t want to have a new dad like John. Also, now she feels sad because she still cannot solve her problem. She still sees everything in yellow. Now she is in her bedroom waiting for her mom, who is again talking with John on the phone.

“How was your morning?”

“Mmm…it was so strange because suddenly my customer started to run…”

“Who was she?”

“She was a girl called Victoria, and her problem was that she sees everything in yellow.”

“Oh! It has to be very hard being her mother. I can imagine it!”

Suddenly Veronica goes into the room and says, “Sorry, I want to tell you that you are her mother.”

Her mom lets go of the phone, which falls down on the floor. Her face looks horrible. She is sad. “What?!” she says slowly. “Are you saying that the girl who sees everything in yellow is you?!”

“Yes, Mom. I wanted to tell you this before, but I was afraid of you,” Veronica says quickly.

Chapter 6

Veronica is next to her mom, who is in the bed. She is trying to explain everything to her mom. Jessie felt so bad and then suddenly she fainted, so that’s why she is in the bed now. She has understood everything that Veronica has said to her, and now she feels better but confused. Her daughter has told her secret to her, so now she feels that she has to tell her secret to Veronica.

“Veronica, I need to tell you one thing.”

“Yes, Mom,” she says.

“John and me”

“Oh! Mom, I know”—she interrupts—”John told ‘Victoria’ the news.” A small smile came to our mouths.

“Oh! You are a clever girl. You have such strange ideas.”

A strange silence invades the room.

Chapter 7

After some minutes of talking, Veronica says to her mother, “Mom, I want to tell you that I don’t like John at all. He can’t be your husband. You are so nice and good-looking, whereas he is impolite and ugly. You are so different.”

Jessie says nothing. She is confused.

Then John opens the door of that room. “It’s true, we can’t get married,” he says as a tear falls from his eyes. “We are so different. Sorry, Jessie.”

“No problem, John,” says Jessie.

“Yes, life does not only give good things. Also it gives bad things,” he says. “And also I need to tell you, Veronica, that your problem can’t be solved. You are so special, it isn’t bad. Special things sometimes are good.”

In this moment, Veronica doesn’t listen to anybody. Only she is listening to her heart, which is repeating one by one his words and she just feels so sad. He has told her the most terrible thing that no one like her wants to hear. Then she remembers the only thing that makes her a little happier: they aren’t going to get married. But it isn’t enough. Sadness has invaded all her body.

“Now everybody will keep laughing at me because of my problem and I will never enjoy life with its own colors. I feel as if a big stone is falling on my body, without any existence. I feel tired. I feel sad. But now I don’t have time to think on these problems.”

She just closes her eyes as much as possible, waiting for something good to happen, but there isn’t a result.