When Elizabeth Fitzwater went to a week-long high school writing camp last summer, she already knew she liked writing.
But Writers at Harriman changed that.
“I always knew I liked to write, but after Writers at Harriman I was like, wow — I love writing,” Fitzwater said.
The 18-year-old graduating senior from Pierce has been writing off and on since fifth grade and applied for the camp at the suggestion of a teacher. Fitzwater didn’t know anyone else who was going to the camp — she didn’t even know anyone else her age who liked to write. But she headed to Harriman State Park in southeastern Idaho to see what awaited.
She joined 43 other participants who all stayed in the park’s rustic cabins, Fitzwater said. Most of their time was spent the scenic outdoor setting.
“You woke up in the morning and could see the sunrise,” Fitzwater said.
After breakfast, the campers attended practical workshops at various places around camp — by the river or next to a cabin. Each camper was assigned a teacher and group to meet with for the first part of the morning, but moved to interest-based elective classes later on. After lunch was free time with optional classes like watercolor painting and bookmaking.
Fitzwater took bookmaking for her first three days but then opted to join some newly-made friends to do the very thing that drew her to the camp — write.
“We found this place by the river that was secluded,” Fitzwater said. “We’d have our own mini poetry readings and work on writing together.”
The workshops gave the campers a chance to learn and practice skills like writing in detail, using stressed and unstressed syllables to create rhythm in poetry and making the words in a sentence flow together. They were also able explore other writing genres. Before the camp, Fitzwater mostly wrote fictional short stories, but the camp has broadened her interests.
“I didn’t know I could write poetry until they gave me a chance to try it,” Fitzwater said. Now she writes poetry regularly.
Fitzwater returned home with more than writing techniques, she ended up with new friends. She has kept in close contact with a number of them, including Annabelle Ady from Lewiston and Kailee Boyer in Culdesac, who also attended last year.
“It was cool being around other writers,” Fitzwater said.
Kids she goes to school with mostly complain about having to write, she said, so it was a new experience to be around others who share her interest and encouraged her in the craft.
Though she’s graduating, Fitzwater plans to attend the camp again this summer. In the fall, she plans to attend North Idaho College to study art, english and theatre and get her teaching certificate. And, of course, she plans to keep writing.
“Before the camp I was someone who liked to write every now and then,” Fitzwater said. “After the camp I was like — I’m a writer, I can do this.”
Fitzwater, Ady and Boyer will be reading excerpts of their writing work today at BookPeople in Moscow at an event designed to provide information for those who are interested in attending the camp. Rick Just, camp director, will be present to answer questions.
Writers at Harriman is a program of Friends of Idaho State Parks. The five-day, six-night camp costs $175; some scholarships are available. To apply or get more information, visit www.writersatharriman.org.
IF YOU GO
WHAT: Writers at Harriman Info event
WHEN: 7 p.m. today
WHERE: BookPeople, Moscow