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Thalia Book Club Camp offers up-close interaction with renowned children's book authors and illustrators, book discussions, and book-related field trips around the city. This blog follows the camp's activities.

Thalia Book Club Camp Week 3, Day 3!

Published on July 26, 2017

Already halfway through Week 3, how could it be??

After an Urban Scavenger Hunt around 94th and 95th street (clues included “find a sign with a rooster on it” and “find a cat in a window and draw it”) we were visited by the wonderful Jeff Hirsch, author of The Eleventh Plague.  He shared with us a bit about his writing process, his favorite books (“How I Live Now” by Meg Rossoff and “The Dark is Rising” by Susan Cooper) and why he loves writing about post-apocalyptic worlds: he said he loves the idea of second chances, and the hope and opportunity that arise when the world has to begin again.  A more optimistic answer than we expected!  We also discussed different kinds of science fiction:  “hard” science fiction (that which sticks to the rules of real world physics) and “soft” science fiction (that which has more flexible rules of physics that can be bent and changed by the author).  Jeff told us he prefers “soft” science fiction; inventing the scientific rules for his own worlds.  This helped to explain some of the strange goings-on in The Eleventh Plague!

After our discussion/Q&A, Jeff led us through an awesome writing exercise– practical basics for “How to Start Writing.”   We started by creating Settings.  Jeff had us create 10 different settings for a potential story.  Each setting had to meet three requirements: it had to be specific, personal, and active.  Campers came up with all kinds of fascinating places!  A couple of setting highlights:  The milk aisle of the grocery store in Dullville, a stifling hot room in an 1850s NYC tenement, and the ocean at dusk with a ship sinking in the distance!  After we created our settings, we moved on to Characters.  Jeff took us through a character building exercise where we had to introduce a character using a specific Mad-Libs-like format:  A  (descriptor)+(noun) who needs (blank).  For example– “A  curious teacher  who needs a child.”  We created 10 different characters using this format, including “Amber Rose, a heartbroken girl who needs an unbroken family,” “Sam, a lost man who needs a purpose,” and “A tough immigrant who needs a dream.”  Last but not least, we used our settings and our characters to create a story!  We picked one of our settings, and then placed 2 of our characters in it, just to see how they might interact!  The results were pretty amazing, campers came up with some very compelling stories.  Jeff gave us in-depth, personalized, and constructive feedback on our stories.  It was wonderful to have a chance to practice using practical tools for good story writing!  I know even some of the counselors were excited to put Jeff’s tools to good use in their own writing.


After lunch in the park and the traditional Capture the Flag (today’s game ended in a draw!) we headed back to Symphony Space for an afternoon of Choice Time.

Campers could either write/read, play board games, or go to the Sharp Stage for some drama: enacting scenes from Harry Potter and the Cursed Child!  After a compelling performance of a scene selection from the play, our thespians took a bow and our day concluded with a few rousing rounds of “Handshake Murder” and “Night at the Museum.”

Looking forward to tomorrow’s visit with J.A. White and a trip to Radio City Music Hall!




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