CTT Alum and now best-selling YA novelist Cristin Terrill has been our writer-in-residence this week, and ends her time with us with a contribution to our blog!
After being a camper and counselor at Tall Timbers for ten years and then being away for ten more, I’m back at camp. Most of the faces are different, the familiar faces have few more gray hairs, and everything’s gotten a new coat of paint (or five) since the last time I was here, but in the essentials Tall Timbers is exactly the same: a fun and supportive environment for kids to grow within themselves and form lifelong bonds with others.
Tall Timbers is in my blood, which means it’s also crept into my work. In my first novel for young adults, the teenage protagonist is loosely based on one of the girls I counseled here, and when she and another character are forced to go on the run, they find shelter in a cabin in the Blue Ridge Mountains of West Virginia. This was my tribute to Tall Timbers because it was my refuge as a teen. But my copyeditor insisted I change this. John Denver, she said, had lied to me. There were no Blue Ridge Mountains in West Virginia, she claimed. It was one of the few things I put my foot down about, and the reference remains, right there on page 248.
Getting to come back here (as a grown-up with a private cabin who can go to bed whenever she wants, no less) has been a wonderful and meaningful experience for me. I didn’t discover my love of writing until I was well into my twenties, so I’ve had a ton of fun working with kids who are already way ahead of me. At each free-swim this week, I’ve taught a writing workshop focusing on a different genre — from short stories to poetry to playwriting — and I’m continually surprised by the imagination and skill of the dedicated band of writers who have given up their pool time to come create with me. Creativity is a muscle you have to continually work if you don’t want it to atrophy, as it does for most of us as we grow up and are overwhelmed with more pressing concerns, but my hope is that teaching and encouraging kids to flex their creativity when they’re still young will keep their minds as effortlessly open and vibrant and uninhibited as they are now.
As one of my campers wrote during our poetry workshop:
Vary and spread
One day I will be able to
Reach the highest stars and clouds.
I’m getting these kids’ autographs now, ‘cause I know they’re going to be worth something someday soon.