My career aspirations came and went in phases growing up. Like many kids, I had a short-lived desire to pursue fire-fighting as a preschooler. But that dream was dropped like a hot potato when it dawned on me that fire fighters actually had to enter burning buildings and didn't just drive around on snazzy trucks. This was followed by my "I want to be a hairstylist" phase. Every Barbie in the house that year received a pixie ala Liza Minnelli; it was 1973, Cabaret was still very big. And my presidential ambitions died a slow and painful death after one very poorly run student council race. We were only in third grade, but my already politically jaded constituents saw right through my "I'll get soda in the water fountains" campaign promise.
The desire to grow up to be a professional writer kicked in when I was around 10. I was in fourth grade, and my original 14-page book of poetry, "Give Me Liberty," bound with yellow duct tape and covered with stars and stripes fabric, was selected by our school's media specialist to represent Potomac Elementary at the Maryland Young Authors Conference in celebration of the bicentennial. I can still remember standing on stage at the state capitol proudly reading my Lexington and Concord themed haiku (yes, I employed a Japanese format for an unabashedly jingoistic poem) aloud for the panel of distinguished judges (senior media specialists from other schools, I'm guessing).
If there was a national competition for patriotic poets, I didn't advance based on my 17-syllable homage to the "shot heard round the world." And to be fair, the piece probably did need some finessing. But in 1976, there weren't a lot of after-school activities or summer camps available to nurture precocious poets, or any other youthful writers for that matter.
But times, quite fortunately, have changed. And if you have aspiring authors in your house, this summer offers a fabulous opportunity for them refine their writing skills.
For its second summer, the Greater Madison Writing Project, in partnership with Olbrich Botanical Gardens, is sponsoring two week-long camps in August for young writers entering grades 3-8. Kids who attend the Young Writers Camp will have the daily opportunity to perfect their craft in the stunning east side gardens. I can't imagine a better environment than Olbrich, from the Thai Pavilion to the relaxing serenity garden, for inspiration.
The fellows and experienced teachers who will be serving as the program's "counselors" all have the goal of inspiring and supporting writers of all abilities. Every youthful Emerson, Thoreau and Veronica Roth-to-be will get the opportunity to dive deeply into the writing process. He or she will learn how to more easily generate ideas and become appreciative of good editing (who isn't?) all while exploring a variety of genres including poetry, creative nonfiction, personal narratives and short stories. Kids will also get to meet guest writers from the Madison area and contribute a prized work of writing (maybe even a haiku?) to the program's published anthology.
The early-bird registration is due June 1. So hurry up and register your budding Brontes. Because kids can be fickle when it comes to "What I want to be when I grow up."
But take it from an award-winning haiku practitioner. Having a mini-Moliere, as opposed to a junior Vidal Sassoon in the house can be a lot neater. And a lot less expensive, especially if your kid is a doll collector.comments powered by Disqus
Is it just me or does each summer seem to go by quicker than the last? The end of summer is upon us and for many families this means the start of a new school year.
This past week, on the way to the grocery store, my daughter asked what I believed she thought would be a innocuous question, "Mom, when are we going back-to-school shopping?"
Volunteering with the Young Writers Summer Camp this past week really helped me to remember how utterly creative kids can be when encouraged to come up with their own ideas and use their own words.
This past week I gleefully accepted an offer for new job on the UW-Madison campus. My kids are getting are older and I guess I've felt for a while now that it was time to figure out what would be next for me on the professional front.
"Kids spend so much time in and around school, it's the only place where some have a chance to develop an appreciation for a healthy lifestyle," says Katie Hensel, founder and executive director of Tri 4 Schools.
"I'm envious, mom," said my twelve-year-old daughter as she hopped in the car after theater camp last week. "All the other kids in my group seem to really like, and to be really good at, singing, dancing and acting. But I think all those things are just okay."
"People are looking to book space here all the time," says Remy Fernández-O'Brien, communications and facilities coordinator for the Lussier Community Education Center, a private, nonprofit community center on Madison's west side. "They want to throw their child's first birthday party here or hold a Girl Scout meeting. We're really busy year-round, but it's especially lively here in the summer."
Last week, in response to the county-wide Sleep Safe, Sleep Well public health campaign that encourages parents to "share the room, not the bed" with their sleeping infants, Isthmus contributor Ruth Conniff penned a lovely opinion piece in defense of bed sharing entitled "Confessions of a Co-Sleeper."
As much as I'd like to believe there is latent genius in my daughter's early finger paintings, I'm pretty sure her works are not distinguishable from those created by the pointer fingers and pinkies of thousands of other children from across the world.
Seeing Romeo and Juliet this past weekend was a definite reminder that I need to prepare for something that might resemble a (Near) West Side Story around our place pretty soon.
All during childhood, we calmly tell our kids they don't need to be afraid of the dark, thunder or the monster under the bed. But it's pretty hard to keep your parental cool when your kid is about to embark on the one thing that terrifies you. I knew the problem wasn't really with him. It was with me.
Last January, when temperatures dipped below minus 30 and most people between the ages of 16 and 24 did anything to stay inside, a small yet sturdy group of at-risk teenage boys and young men stacked wood and managed controlled burns at Festge County Park near Cross Plains. Five months later, following a temperature swing of more than 100 degrees, Isthmus found some of those same guys removing invasive honeysuckle and buckthorn at Lake View Hill County Park on Madison's north side.
The first week of summer break at our place usually comes and goes without incident. At times, one could argue, it even verges on pleasant. I have no school lunches to pack and the kids have no 7 a.m. buses to catch.
Have you tried getting anywhere on either Verona Road or East Johnson lately? I'm pretty sure a six-month old could crawl to Fitchburg, or across the isthmus, in less time that it takes me to drive there these days.
As soon as the door closed behind him, I poured myself a cup of the coffee he had made and took a moment to let the enormity of what just happened sink in. My son was ready that morning despite my inability to properly set an alarm clock. My kid was ready that morning without nudging, cajoling, or reminding. He was ready, even when I wasn't.
For the past 17 years or so (i.e., since I've had kids), I haven't made books the priority in my life I know they should be. It's not that I don't try. Just this past weekend I had the best of intentions of picking up, and even finishing, I am Malala, this year's UW-Madison's Go Big Read pick. But the copy still sits untouched on my nightstand.
The longest day of the year is upon us. For those of you keeping track, the sun will rise at 5:18 a.m. and set at 8:41 p.m. on Saturday, June 21. All that daylight, courtesy of the annual summer solstice, will provide the perfect backdrop for Make Music Madison, a daylong event featuring hours and hours of free performances in nearly every corner of the city.
Last week, for the first time, I made my way up to one of the open gallery nights during Madison West's Fine Arts Week, the school's annual showcase for all things creative. The scope of the event is huge, with nearly 1,600 students participating, and the quality of the presented works is phenomenal. It's almost as if the school had been lifted off its perch on Regent Street and traveled back in time to Belle Époque Paris.
If you have aspiring authors in your house, this summer offers a fabulous opportunity for them refine their writing skills. For its second summer, the Greater Madison Writing Project, in partnership with Olbrich Botanical Gardens, is sponsoring two week-long camps in August for young writers entering grades 3-8.
There are lots of benefits to living in a college town. First and foremost, there is always something going on -- a lecture, a film series. Maybe even a protest, if you're lucky. And since becoming a Madisonian, I, for the first time in my life, find myself interested in college football.