YAWP Camp for Dummies



Written by the teens who attended Grub Street's weeklong writing intensive camp Aug. 5-9:

Mack, Ben, Caroline, Liza, Ruth, Tasneen, Fiona, Hannah, Isabella, and Ally


So, you've landed at Grub Street Young Adult Writers' Program. You're a teen between 13 and 18, and instead of sitting in your corner of the library and being bookish, losing whatever tan or burn you acquired that one time you went to the beach, your mom or dad has told you to, "leave your dolls behind and make some damn friends." So you're left with the question: what do I need to know.


If you are commuting to Grub from a suburb that is hour or longer away, do not miss your train. DO NOT MISS YOUR TRAIN. I cannot stress enough how very very important it is that you do not, under any circumstance, miss that train. Missing your train will add unnecessary stress to your morning, and no one wants that.

Make sure you know where you're going and what line you have to take. Also, make sure you have enough money on your CharlieCard or ticket so that you don't have to scramble around trying to find 2.50 so that you can get on the subway.



-wear eccentric clothing: salmon-pink jacket, red fez, yellow dress with red undertones...

-have read The Fault in Our Stars. Discussion will follow!

Prepare for obsession over Doctor Who. Remember – his name isn’t “Doctor Who”, it’s “The Doctor”. Capisce?

Be open to criticism. Despite seeming like the scariest thing in the world, especially to writers, it’s really helpful. No one will rip your writing to shreds, and if they do, feel free to karma-slap them and return the favor.

Be yourself. Literally. If you are secretly a cyborg, timelord, vigilante, mermaid; this is the place to reveal it. Instant popularity.

Well, with that in mind, I think you’re ready. Remember TARDIS stands for Time And Relative Dimensions In Space. Even if you’re not a Whovian.

Speaking the Language:

When participating in this course, you might come across words that are unfamiliar to you. There are words like "slush pile", "flash fiction", and "W- Chart" that might be good to familiarize yourself with before meeting with your peers. You can then casually drop these words into conversation to sound well-read and experienced in the world of writing. You might also want to make yourself comfortable with words like "fez", and "sonic screwdriver". You know. Just in case.

Making friends and enemies:

It’s good news if the group argues over whether the man in the print on the wall has a lighter in his pocket and started the fire that is behind him, OR whether it is a house with a window and smoke coming out of the chimney with a country's coastline in the background.

You also probably shouldn’t write anyone in as a character in your story. They’re liable not to return the next day.


-If you find someone to eat lunch with you on the first day, congratulations -- you may just end up with friends!

Oh the lunch half hour at Grub Street; a time of chatting with new friends, eating sandwiches from home, or chowing down Boloco burritos. Whatever you fancy doing during this time, there are a few things you must know in order to reach maximum pleasure on your Grub Street break. First, Grub Street has a luxurious kitchen, equipped with a sink, fridge, a coffee maker, and even a microwave. So go ahead, live a little. Tap into your gourmet side and bring food that can be heated up. Second if you’re feeling one with nature, feel free to stroll through the park and eat enjoying the fresh air and listening to the birds chirping. However, the lovely scene I have just painted for you is missing one danger: ducks, also known as your worst enemy. Feed them, and you might as well issue a death sentence. If this does not scare you enough, why don’t  I walk you through the process for which we have documented evidence. If you feed even one of the few ducks waddling about the park, if you just give them a crumb of you bread, an imaginary duck alarm with go off around the park, and they will swarm. Ducks you hadn’t even known were in the park will appear and together, in rows like soldiers, they will create their own army to take you down for more food. You may want to give in at this point, and give them more food to distract them, but you are digging your own grave as they will only follow you for more. IT’S A VICOUS CYCLE. The only option at this point is to flee the park and run back to safety at Grub Street, which leads me to my third and final point about lunch. If you do leave your Grub Street room, be sure to come back at least five minutes early. It is at this point that heated debates about movies, books, and TV shows will ensue. Who’s obsession or hatred is justified, and who’s is downright wrong. While there may be some throwing of plastic cups and threats to leave the room, this is an important bonding experience. Plus, you may learn to give other obsessions a chance. Use your half hour of lunch wisely, it’s a great break before you get back to business…scratch that…more fun with friends.

Field Trips:

There are occasionally these things called “field trips”. You get free books and tattoos. (Fake ones – calm down, Mom.) Don’t miss them.

Must have: Sneakers—believe it or not, this camp for writers is going to walk places. Like, exercise. Exercise. You know, like the weights and the sweating.

Oh, the places you will go! You may even get the opportunity to stalk strangers! For art, of course. A warning; be extremely discreet as you observe this person. Channel  your inner secret agent. If you fail to do this effectively, your subject may confront you. It will be awkward. Very awkward.

Once It's over:

There will, unfortunately, come a time when your weeklong experience will come to a close. There really is no proper way to handle such a tragedy. We suggest crying. You can collect phone numbers or Tumblr URLs if you wish, or sign up for more Grub Street programs in hopes of seeing an old familiar face. But crying is probably the best way to go.

You might feel as if you've enjoyed the Grub Street Camp experience. Others who have attended claim genuine fun is the cause for this feeling. Others claim they just liked the reading. Stockholm this and that, there are a lot of points of view. You might find that you made some friends and learned something.




About the Author See other articles by Nadine Kenney Johnstone
by Nadine Kenney Johnstone

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