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P is the beginning of me
I like p, p stands for pretty
P is tall like when I keep growing up
P has a long and tall line with a circle on
The tippy top of the line
P is for pizza and pets and popping bubbles
And p is for popsicle, pasta and green peas
I can hide in your center just like when y​ou
Were in your mommy’s tummy in a crib
Snuggled up cute and cozy and that’s a
Poem of P

This piece by Paxton, a first-grader, was written at the 2019 Summer Writing Camp sponsored by the Rhode Island Writing Project (RIWP). This year the camp drew almost 50 creative kids who love to write to RIC’s​ campu​s​. 

From July 8-19 campers in grades one through 10 freely explored their individual voices through the genre of creative writing. They learned techniques such as how to choose the best, most powerful language; how to strike the appropriate tone; and how to organize their ideas. 

“Even though focus was on creative writing, the skills students learned are transferable to academic writing,” said Summer Writing Camp Director Jeff Lawton. “In fact, it would be a mistake not to view academic writing as creative. All good writing involves creativity.” 

Lawton teaches English at Pilgrim High School in Warwick. For 12 years, he has put aside his own vacation time to teach ninth- and 10th-grade students at the writing camp.​​ 

“I positively love the beach but I would gladly give up two weeks of prime July beach time to engage with these young people,” he said. “Working with young writers re-energizes me. Their passion, enthusiasm and talent is infectious, and they inspire me to be a better teacher and a better writer myself.”

That enthusiasm wasn’t lost on the children’s parents. They noted how their children “loved coming to camp every day,” “enjoyed the company of other kids,” “enjoyed being able to talk about writing all day long” and “came home every day excited.” One parent revealed that “this is the first camp my son tried and liked, and we’ve tried a lot!”

Rhode Island Writing Project Site Director and RIC Professor of English Education Janet Johnson said that writing is a powerful skill to have. “Writing cultivates emotional and intellectual growth for children and adolescents ​while also developing critical literacy skills.”

“Whether you’re writing to inform, to argue, to advocate or to entertain,” said Lawton, “the ability to use language in the most effective, powerful way makes people think and feel in ways they hadn’t before. That’s a valuable skill for all people, not just children. The sooner they learn and develop these skills, the better they’ll be at it.”

On the last day of camp, each student selected one of their writings to be printed in an anthology. Along with Paxton’s poem titled “P,” here are three​ other masterworks.

“The Bus Driver,” by CeCe (Grade 3)
The bus driver woke up every morning and had the same thought, “Another day of going who knows where.” Then he’d peel himself off his bed and make some scrambled eggs. While the eggs were cooking, he climbed the steep stairs to his room where he would put on his glasses and tie his warm cozy dark green robe around him. On his way downstairs he put his blue slippers on. By then, the eggs were ready. He gobbled them up, hungry, because the night before he had no time for supper. He’d whip together a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch. He ran upstairs and threw on an old tee-shirt, and some jeans. Next he brushed his teeth. Now he was sprinting down the stairs. He was late for his long, long day of driving.

An excerpt from “Cracked Mask,” by Katie (Grade 10)
Until Jayce, the spikes and piercing eyes of her mask had successfully managed to drive everyone away. 

Until Jayce, everyone had been foole​d by the artful designs carefully crafted into her facade. 

Until Jayce, there had not been one drop of suspicion or questioning on the story behind her act. 

It felt foreign having someone so close, able to read between her lines, and having that someone as an ally and a comfort. 

It was terrifying, yet thrilling. 

“Abandoned Subway,” by Owen (Grade 8)
The dreary subway station was poorly lit. Mice scurried around on the waiting area above the tracks, scavenging for food. The stairs leading down were made of cracked cement, with rusty metal railing down either side. There were benches strewn about, most connected to maps of subway lines. The station was rather dilapidated, puddles everywhere, water dripping from the ceiling, everything covered with cobwebs. There were many outdated advertisement boards on the opposite side of the tracks and on the walls of the staircase. No one had been there for a long time. 

​The tracks trembled. A deafening horn sounded from down the tunnel. A beam of light illuminated the seemingly endless darkness. A train was coming.​