It’s Friday! How did that happen? What a week we’ve had. And today, our final day of the first week of Teen Book Camp, was another knockout. In preparation for our visit with Alex London, author of the dystopian novel, Proxy, we turned episodes from the book into dramatic scenes. The challenge was to translate the narration into stage action. Alex arrived a bit early, so he got to see the theatrical interpretation of his book.
Then we returned to the camp room for Alex’s presentation. He told us about his journey from journalism to writing middle grade books and adult books, to suddenly writing Proxy. It all started some years ago when he was a journalist working with children in a refugee camp in war torn South Sudan. He was hearing horrible stories from the young girls and women he was working with. He became distraught until a colleague, an elderly nun, pointed out that in spite of it all, these young people had retained their humanity, their kindness and generosity. The idea that dystopian situations can bring out the best in people inspired him to write this novel.
But how do you build a terrible fictional world? Alex looks at the world around him and thinks “what worries me? What bothers me?” Then he amplifies it. The specific idea for Proxy came to him one day when he didn’t do the dishes, which was his responsibility. When his partner came home and saw the sink full of dirty dishes, he said “Fetch the whipping boy!” Alex thought , “Wow! I’d love someone to take my punishment for me!” That, and a lot of imagination and brainstorming and revising (he said he’s constantly revising,) became Proxy.
Our writing assignment was to take a classic fairy tale, many of which are already very grim, and write a dystopian version. Some stories that got the dystopia treatment were: The Three (Bad) Bears vs. the Goldilocks Girl Gang, (Greedy) Sleeping Beauty, (Vicious) Snow White, (Pleasure-seeking) Hansel and Gretel, as well as some original stories and poems.
Alex signed books, admired a look-alike journal cover, and came to the park with us for lunch.
After lunch, we returned to the Thalia Theater for a book sharing session, in which anyone can recommend a book she or he loves. Here is the list of books our campers (and counselors) urged us to read:
The Pull of Gravity, by Gae Polisner
The Disenchantments, by Neil LeCour
Weetzie Bat, by Francisca Lia Block
Tell the Wolves I’m Home, by Carol Rifka Brunt
The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak
A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Hokey Pokey, by Jerry Spinelli
Lock and Key, by Sarah Dessen
Of Mice and Magic, by Leonard Maltin
Out of My Mind, by Sharon Draper
The Warrior series, by Erin Hunter
The Ghost of Graylock, by Dan Poblocki
The Seven Tales of Trinket, by Shelley Moore Thomas
Homeless Bird, by Gloria Whelan
We also had a reprise of the pass-along graphic novel, introduced to us by Monday’s author, Chris Ford. Four campers shared the four insane stories they had co-created. Lots of fun!
We ended the day and the week with some interesting games that involve communicating in different ways:
-Guess what playing card you’ve been given, but can’t see, based on how others greet you
-Get in order of birthdays from January 1 – December 31, without talking
-“Essences,” a game where one player thinks of someone (today we thought of characters from this week’s books,) and the -others ask questions about the character’s “essence.”
-And, finally, that age-old favorite, Telephone. “We want our appendix out, too,” ended up as “I am crimminy.” You gotta love Telephone!
And we love Thalia Book Club Camp. We will miss our wonderful campers who aren’t coming back next week, and look forward to another exciting week with those that will be returning.