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Writers at Harriman

Writers at Harriman

Our goal is to provide high school students with advanced instruction in creative writing from working writers at low or no cost. Writers at Harriman takes place annually at Harriman State Park of Idaho. The Scovel Center at Harriman, and adjacent facilities were designed to host camps and workshops. The original design team put together the layout for the facility with a high school writing camp in mind. The creators of Writers at Harriman were former Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation (IDPR) Director Yvonne Ferrell and IDPR’s contract development director Sheilah Prevost. They hired Margaret Marti to run the annual camp, which she did from 2009 to 2015. Rick Just took over as director in 2016.

The Essential Question that guided our projects’ focus was:

Our essential question is, “What makes writing worth reading, and why should we do it?”

The essential answer is that honesty and personal experience make writing worth reading. This is true whether we are writing fiction, nonfiction, or memoir. We should pursue writing in order to share our experiences with others who might learn from them.

At the conclusion of the project, students responded to questions related to the identified Standards:

CR 1 (Generate and conceptualize artistic ideas and work)

CR 2 (Organize and develop artistic ideas and work) Our teaching writers begin where the students are. They will improve in these areas:
1. Student writing will show effective organization, including varied sentence structure.
2. Student writing will exhibit good word choice and some experimenting with language and tone.
3. Student writing will include a personal voice and evidence of taking risks with style and structure.

CR 3 (Refine and complete artistic work) Each student completes at least one finished work to perform at the public reading and publish in the anthology.

Student Veronica: I learned what creative nonfiction is and how to write it, and how powerful tense changes are, and just how visceral reading can be.

Student Amelia: I improved my understanding of pacing and summary within a story. I learned to more effectively tell a personal story more. I gained experience sharing my work and listening to others do the same, and I improved the way in which I give and receive feedback. I learned that I am not alone.

Student Gabby: I learned how to infuse more detail in my work.

Student Abby: I learned to share my writing with others.


Writing is a solitary occupation, yet each year at camp I see students grow not by sitting alone with their pen and their journal, but by sharing their writing with their new-found community. Student after student talks about that in their evaluations.

Student Lumi: I learned that I need to put in the effort to find community because it is worth it and that writing will always have a place in my life, even when I think I’ve forgotten it. I realized that I need to bring my own experiences into writing to improve my writing’s vividness.

Student Chloe: I’ve always known that writing brings people together, but the level at which it does so when I’m at camp is quite special. It was wonderful to experience such a vibrant community again, and I will remember it for a long time.

Student Jester: The people are so good at constructive criticism. They make it easy to write and share. The writing is applauded even if the author is unsure about the quality.


We have been refining Writers at Harriman for 14 years, now. Teaching Writers are the core of the program. We had a little too much emphasis on poetry in the beginning years, featuring writers who knew how to teach it well and who enjoyed it as a life hobby. We still teach that but have tried to shift the focus in recent years to Teaching Writers who made a living at writing in various ways. We’ve been mixing in genre writers, writers who make their living from eBooks, and creative non-fiction writers.

Publishing has changed dramatically since the camp’s beginning. There has been an explosion of opportunity for digital content writers. We want to make sure students are aware of a variety of opportunities they will have in the future to use their writing skills.

Monetizing their writing is only one aspect, though. First, we encourage students to follow their imagination wherever it takes them. We strive to help them love writing for its own sake.