Six weeks, twenty-six students, 140 writing assignments. That would sum up my two sessions of Writing & Imagination at CTY Chestertown this year.
But a mere summary does not include the odd and interesting highlights, such as...
Finding a bat (the live kind, like the one that flew in Bruce Wayne's window), on the third floor of our classroom building. While none of the students were inspired to become superheroes, they did have to write "I am the Bat" and explain how it got there. When I brought the class up to see it, one of the boys, by then well aware that I'll use almost anything as a prompt, turned to me and said, "We're going to write about this, aren't we?"
Seeing one of the most incredible sunsets ever. One evening, my dormmate Jim came in and said, "You have to come out and look at this." With our fellow roomie Troy, we went outside and watched a spectacular mixture of pinks, reds, oranges, purples, and blues in a tapestry that spread across the western sky. At one point, Jim said, "When do we stop watching?" I replied, "I guess when it's dark." Troy was able to capture it on his cellphone camera and, while the pictures don't really do it justice, they are something to remember it by.
Joining some past and present Bay Ecology instructors on a test run of one of their field trips to the Sassafras River. We drove into a preserve that was part forest and part cornfield, hiked down a path to the river and then along the shore to a pond filled with giant lily pads. It was truly something worth seeing.
But, lest you think the site was something never before found by civilization, some boaters had set up a tiki bar and a live rock band on a sand bar nearby.
Dr. Nefarious' plan to take over the world. One of the numerous personalities I adopt in writing prompts, Dr. N. is the world's most evil villain. During the second session, he won the support of the students by promising them an endless supply of cookies, French fries, and soda and each newly recruited minion was assigned a number. (My class even recruited students from other classes to the cause, resulting in kids coming up to me at lunch and in the swimming pool, asking what minion number they could be.)
Of course, this resulted in a writing assignment, an encyclopedia entry about how Dr. Nefarious became ruler of the earth. In my own contribution, a sidebar by Dr. N. himself, he recounts, "And so I have gained control of the entire world without a single shot being fired. Without a single casualty, in fact. Unless, of course, you count my minion army of burping, fat kids."
"...and Other CTY Lunchtime Stories." During one lunch, I overheard one of my fellow instructors saying to a student, "Sheldon, eat the whole banana!" I mentioned it to Amy, my Teaching Assistant, as something that could inspire a writer, much as Agatha Christie was prompted to write the novel Why Didn't They Ask Evans? after hearing someone say it on a bus. Sheldon, Eat the Whole Banana, and Other CTY Lunchtime Stories could become a bestseller.
It became a running gag for us, adding the tag each time we heard someone say something odd or amusing. By the end, it had spread among other members of the staff, to the point where the line was used quite regularly. Now all we need to do is write the book.
The sidewalks and landscaping getting finished the day before we left. As I mentioned in a previous post, the sidewalk in front of our dorms was torn up and was then gradually replaced with brick walkways. In a flurry of activity in the last week, the brickwork was completed and enough flora to stock a nursery or three was planted in front of the buildings.
We never did get to enjoy an evening sitting outside, but it will be interesting when we return next summer to see how much of the foliage has survived.
There was much more, of course -- games of Ultimate Frisbee and poker, kayaking on the Chester River, a game of Word Assassin that seems to still be going on (my co-instructor Lauren seemed to be winning at last report), crab night, magic cookie bars, visits from staffers from prior summers. But, like Brigadoon, CTY 2010 has vanished from sight, living on only in the memories of those who were a part of it.