In Our Natural Habitat

“And here we see writers in their natural habitat.”

This was a random thought, and then recurred more frequently during the time that I volunteered at my library’s writing and book camp for children and teens. For one week, we went to workshops led by authors and illustrators, while practicing and honing our writing skills. There is so much I could tell, but I would never be finished as I would keep remembering another story, then another, and another… But if I were to name one thing that stayed with me afterward, it would be the writers that surrounded me during that week.

On the last day, there was a gala where some of the campers read from their work. As we all listened to each story, I was struck by the uniqueness of their voices and by their inventive imaginations. Whether they were short pieces, poems, excerpts of a larger work being worked on, I just wanted to keep on listening. “What happens next?” (The readers had a minimum of two minutes to read, maximum three minutes. At two minutes a bell would ring, the kind at a shop when you want to get the shopkeeper’s attention; at three minutes, there would be a cowbell and we were all supposed to shout, “More cowbell, less reading!” The cowbell only happened once but everyone pleaded to have the final paragraph read.) Throughout the readings, my spirit was lifted as the readers – these writers! – inspired me.

When we weren’t attending workshops or listening to keynotes, we worked on our writing. And here is when that thought occurred to me – “writers in their natural habitat.” I would look up and see everyone’s heads down, pen (or pencil) to paper; fingers to keyboards, and it amazed me to think that in one space, simultaneously, all of us were in different worlds; each of us creating. Sometimes there would be brainstorming between two people, if not more, in hushed, excited whispers; on occasion, there would be a sigh or groan from someone as they tried to figure out what to write next or what to write at all, but, mostly, the only sounds you could hear were the clicks and clacks of a keyboard and paper being written on.

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