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Writers at Harriman 2019

Friends of Idaho State Parks

We had another successful camp this year, with 37 students attending. Our maximum is 40. Two dropped out a couple of weeks before camp and one had a family emergency the day camp started and could not attend.
Two students came from out-of-state, Utah, and Oregon. We had 21 students from Boise, 3 from Blackfoot, 3 from Meridian, 2 from Kuna, and 1 each from Idaho Falls, Lewiston, McCammon, Middleton, Pocatello, and Victor. Thirty-one of the students were girls and six were boys. Five immigrant students attended the camp this year.
All of our staff returned from last year with the exception of Megan Levad. She was chosen Writer in Residence for Santa Monica and could not attend. In her place, we hired Dwayne Blackaller. Dwayne was the associate artistic director at Boise Contemporary Theater, has taught at three colleges and worked for the Idaho Shakespeare Festival as a teacher. He was a terrific fit for the camp, broadening our learning opportunities for the students.
Malia Collins, who has been with the camp for four years, was recently chosen Idaho’s Writer in Residence. As it turned out, her craft talk to the students was her first presentation in that role.

The Essential Question that guided our projects’ focus was:

“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:

Student Responses

“Writing honestly can affect your environment, the people around you, and the audience.”

“I learned to always use all my senses in writing, and to use my environment for inspiration.”

“I learned about the importance of spacing, language, and rhythm in poetry and other works. I also learned how to pace a good story and how maintain tension, and how to construct a well-built plot.”

“I learned that I can write every day!”

“Sometimes you have to write something that isn’t poetry to get your point across.”

“I was able to bring more truth to my writing.”

“I learned how to become a better storyteller and be able to engage my audience in a more meaningful fashion.”


The greatest impact of the program is the development of confidence in the young writers. They often arrive a little withdrawn and reluctant to share their work. Throughout the week they learn to share one on one, in small groups, and finally to an audience of their peers, community members, and parents. The second greatest impact is in having the students find their “tribe.” These are typically students who are not members of the top cliques at school. They often don’t completely fit in. At Harriman they find others much like themselves. Within hours they’ve developed friendships that will be long-lasting and they have come to better understand their own self-worth.


We always strive to improve the program, trying something new each year. Because of the interest shown in wildlife photography by many students, we are going to add a hiking class on basic photography next year, taught by our naturalist.


Many of our students write poetry. I suspect they don’t read a lot of it, though. That’s not unusual. I do have concerns about reaching the students with the kind of writing that they likely read. I’m thinking of bringing in someone for at least a talk on writing genre fiction. It’s a market several of the students would do well in. I’m also considering a class on e-publishing since that is often how teenagers access books.