About Word Camp

Welcome back — it's our second summer of Word Camp! For a week in late June or early July, we invite young writers in grades 3–8 to spend an hour a day in a writing workshop of their choice. Villain-building! Sports writing! Slam poetry! In every workshop, writers will read fun sample pieces, work on projects that they're excited about, and meet other kids who share their interests. No writing experience necessary — just passion.

Signups will open May 1st! They're first-come, first-serve, so make sure to sign up quickly.

If you have any questions, please contact Word Camp Director Rowana Miller or Assistant Director Rebekah Donnell.


Word Camp Schedule

Session I: June 21st — June 25th, 2021

10:00–11:00 ET — Becoming the Bad Guy: Villainous Writing for Middle Schoolers
Taught by Sophie Quaglia

Have you ever wanted to get inside the mind of a villain? Or wondered what it would be like to do bad things? In this workshop, we will create our very own villain characters and drop them into various villainous situations. By the end of the course, each writer will choose one specific circumstance they'd like to explore in-depth and write a piece — in any genre! — about their character in that situation.

11:00–12:00 ET — What Do Dogs Think?: Writing from Nonhuman Perspectives for Elementary Schoolers
Taught by Rachel Swym

Lots of stories are told by people, but what about all the not-people that have stories? Animals, plants, toys, rocks computers, cities, planets! In this workshop, we'll read stories and write about what nonhumans do, see, don't see, and think about. Each writer will create multiple story ideas and one finished story over the course of the week.

12:00–1:00 ET — Black Panther and Beyond: Afrofuturism for Middle Schoolers
Taught by Ashley Codner

"Wakanda Forever!" The famous phrase from Marvel's "Black Panther" franchise points to the enduring impact of the film and its message of Black empowerment. In this workshop, we will think about how and why artists create technological and futuristic worlds, and how those Afrofuturist themes can help us envision our own hopes for the future.

1:00–2:00 ET — Seeing and Being: Visual Poetry for Middle Schoolers
Taught by Farah Sayed

It's poetry like you've never seen it before! We'll explore how poetry can take on many different visual forms. We'll also learn how to use font, word patterns, and color to enhance the meaning of a poem.

Session II: June 28th – July 2nd, 2021

10:00–11:00 ET — Play Ball: Sports Writing for Elementary Schoolers
Taught by Joey Piatt

From baseball to bowling, sports have the power to create special moments that we can all connect with. We will explore the power of sport through writing in this week-long workshop.

11:00–12:00 ET — Making a Monster, Adopting an Alien, Conquering Existential Anxieties: Science Fiction Writing for Middle Schoolers
Taught by Juliette Palermo

Have you ever wanted to create a monster? In this workshop, we'll get to know science fiction classics, link science fiction to real life events and anxieties, and unlock our full creative potential through a mixture of collaborative and independent writing activities.

12:00–1:00 ET — Choose Your Own Adventure: Interactive Fiction Writing for Middle Schoolers
Taught by Ian McCormack

In this workshop, we will explore the world of interactive fiction and write our own 'choose your own adventure' short stories! This genre is oft underappreciated, but tremendous fun to both write and read.

1:00–2:00 ET — Improv Slam!: Spoken Word Poetry for Elementary Schoolers
Taught by Isabella Schlact

Yes... and?! Combining the fundamentals of poetic writing and improvisational acting, we'll learn how to write and perform spoken word poetry. Each day will consist of improvisational acting games, mini-lessons on elements of spoken word, and exercises for kids to hone their craft.


Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What's the structure of the workshop week?

A: During the first four days of the week, participants will learn about/read/write/discuss work within the genre, and then on the fifth day, they'll share their pieces. Each instructor also offers optional one-on-one hours every day where kids can come in to get individualized feedback and talk about their writing.

Q: Are parents invited?

A: As much as possible, we'd like this to be a kids-only experience, just like in-person camp. Of course we understand if parents want to verify our legitimacy on the first day of the workshop. After that, though, we encourage parents to step back and prepare to be wowed by what their kids write by the end of the week!

Q: What are the expectations for workshop participants?

A: Come with your Zoom video on and your writing brain prepared!

Q: How big are the classes?

A: Not very big. We want each writer to get lots of individual attention from the instructors, and we also want to maximize opportunities for kids to interact. Our workshops are first come, first serve, so sign up quickly before space fills up!

Q: Can I/my child participate in more than one workshop?

A: Unfortunately, no. We want to give opportunities to as many different kids as possible.

Q: Who's teaching the workshops?

A: Undergraduate students at the University of Pennsylvania! A number of our instructors participate in the Kelly Writers House and broader writing community at Penn, where they've taken and taught writing courses much like these.

Q: Hmm, an hour a day doesn't seem like enough time to write an entire science fiction story/poetry collection/sports narrative.

A: For some kids, it is! For other kids, we know they need more time. Each workshop is structured so that writers can work on their projects as much or as little as they'd like outside of the four hour-long periods. We're flexible :)

Q: What if the writer is in the summer between fifth and sixth grade — do we sign up for the elementary or middle school workshops?

A: Decide based on the year the writer is going into. The elementary school workshops are for writers going into third, fourth, and fifth grades; the middle school workshops are for writers going into sixth, seventh, and eighth grades.

Q: The program times are listed in ET (US Eastern). As long as I/my child can reasonably attend the workshop given our time zone, are the workshops open no matter where we live?

A: Yes! KWH Word Camp welcomes young writers wherever they are.

Q: After the workshop is over, what will I/my child leave with?

A: Writers will come away with a piece that they can share with their friends and family, and treasure forever.


Word Camp is funded by a generous grant from Kerry Sherin Wright, the first director of the Kelly Writers House. Each year, the Kerry Prize funds a student-proposed KWH program; the 2020 Kerry Prize was awarded to Rowana Miller (C'22) to create Word Camp.