The Importance of Creative Writing: Teen Author Boot Camp

There’s this amazing event held each year at the Utah Valley Convention Center called Teen Author Boot Camp. It has played such an important role in my progression in writing. I attended in 2015 and 2016. For me, it gave confidence. I wasn’t weird because I loved to write; there are actually a lot of teens that love to write. I won a contest. What?! I didn’t even know I was any good at writing. Maybe my book is good enough to be published, even if I was only fifteen when I wrote it. Maybe it’s good enough to be read by more than just myself.

I recently had the opportunity to appear on the morning show, Good Things Utah, with two of the amazing ladies, Jennifer Jenkins and Jo Schaffer, that put on this non-profit writing camp each year. You can watch our segment HERE.

They called themselves crazy for putting on the camp, saying that basically the only thing they receive from their hours and hours of work is the satisfaction of seeing young writers learn, grow, and have a fun time at their event. But still they love it. Non-profit really means non-profit. I’m amazed and grateful that there are advocates like this for writing. Donating so. much. time. It was great getting to know them better and I look forward to participating in TABC this year as a presenting author. It will be different and intimidating, but probably really fun. :]

Besides putting on this camp each year, these ladies have started a petition to protect creative writing in schools. You can sign it here.

From the ladies of Teen Author Boot Camp:

“Creative Writing in Utah is slowly being phased out in high schools across the state. This is a deeply concerning issue that sadly begins in elementary schools. Because narrative writing isn’t measured in state testing, many teachers feel pressure to put creative writing on the “back burner” to devote time to the more technical types of writing included in standardized tests. As a result, advocacy for Creative Writing is dwindling, and experts agree that students are not being offered the tools to develop their creative voice.”

Creativity is such a big part of me, and I find it in art, baking, music, and most of all writing. Where do you find your creativity? What does it mean to you? Sign the petition to support those that find it in writing.

On top of all this, these ladies are authors! Show them some love and check out their books! I will definitely be reading them soon. Nameless by Jennifer Jenkins, and Against Her Will by Jo Schaffer.

 

A New Project

I’ve been trying to decide what to write next, and have been complaining everyday about how I just NEED a writing project to work on. After quickly brushing off the reminder that I have a 12 page research paper due at the end of thanksgiving break, with a firm “not THAT kind of writing, Mom” I decided on this:

If you need a new writing prompt, here’s a good one for today, especially today:

Write “I’m thankful for (something) I’m thankful for (something) over and over and over…

Here’s mine. I hope you will write one too.

I’m thankful for people, especially the type of people that believe Kind, Loving, and Honest are the best things to be. I’m thankful for a home that smells like Bath and Body Works cinnamon pumpkin wall flowers. I’m thankful for the pumpkin pie that I will eat today (note that I said the pumpkin pie not slice of pumpkin pie). I’m thankful that I have a family so nearby to share this holiday with: Mom, Dad, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins. And grandparents–for them I am thankful for miracles; I have seen many this last week. I’m thankful for the knowledge that God lives. I’m thankful for the knowledge that He loves me every day despite every mistake I make every day. I’m thankful that these mistakes can be taken from my hand by Someone much greater. I’m thankful for snow because it means fuzzy socks and hot chocolate, not stuck tires and scraping ice off the windows. I’m thankful for education, because it means I can learn and grow; it’s a gift that means I have potential to reach my potential. I’m thankful for friends that laugh with me more than they talk with me, friends that have your back even if you forget to have theirs, friends that squeal over movies with you and share jokes that will go down in history. I’m thankful for my dog and his little black nose and that he hasn’t torn apart his Christmas sweater yet. I’m thankful for books, and the beautiful stories they tell. I’m thankful for perspective, because without it every story would be the same. I’m thankful to have been given the ability to write. I’m thankful that we can write our own stories and make real ones. I’m thankful for people that read, that took the time to read this, and that will try writing their own. I’m thankful for so much to be thankful for.

Happy Thanksgiving!

With <3,

Ashtyn

Storytelling

I don’t think I’ve always been a writer, but I know I have always been a storyteller. Looking back, I can easily see where and when I started writing, but it’s tricky to think of where I started to love stories. I don’t think it ever started, actually. I think it has always just been a part of me and my need for creativity. In elementary school I took the Timpanogos storytelling festival very seriously (I was totally the queen of the storytelling festival ;)). I practiced and practiced the story I was going to tell, planning the actions, the sound of my voice, and the pauses–even where I would breathe–to perfection. I loved the thrill of standing in front of an audience and making them laugh, taking them to a different world for precisely three minutes when I was allowed a microphone and spectators. I loved stepping into the shoes of characters and giving them personality. I wasn’t a writer of stories, but I was a performer of them. I participated in plays, becoming the characters that I brought to life, stepping inside their stories, speaking their words and singing their songs. And I loved it.

When I look back on this, I wonder what changed. I still don’t know exactly why, but I stopped performing stories. I became shy in middle school. I was quiet and reserved. It stemmed from some super strong case of the self-consciousness that every tween faces. I stood in front of a crowd and I blushed. Like, so red that the boy I had a crush on in my sixth grade class pointed out my blushing in these words: Woahhh. Red. Embarrassing and traumatizing to an already insecure girl, right?? I could hardly read a paper in front of my classmates without shaking hands, and a racing heart, and I never lifted my eyes. I forgot about stories. I was too scared to chase them because at that point, it meant standing up and performing in front of my peers.

A few years went by this way, and the only way I experienced stories was through movies and books. It was like I was outside a room looking in through a small window or hovering over a chocolate fountain but never dipping that strawberry. (weird example, but made sense in my brain)

In high school, I was still shy. I’m still shy now, though some of my close friends and family will disagree. I just wasn’t a performer of stories anymore. But I learned through amazing teachers that I enjoyed writing creatively. I started to love the thrill of sitting in front of a keyboard, thinking of ways to make readers laugh, to take them to a different world for a certain number of words. I started to love stepping into the shoes of characters and exploring their personalities, letting them guide the story, watching their lives unfold. It was a mystery to me what they would say next and what scene would link to the next and get me to the end. I found my place in storytelling again–a place where it’s okay to be quiet and where you don’t need spectators, but readers. It’s a lot less vulnerable when you can hit the backspace button any time you want.

Whether I was performing stories or writing them, I think I’ve always had that desire to be a storyteller. But since I began writing, I see the world through a different lens. Everything is a potential plot–the story my professor tells about a chapter of history, the image of a guy riding a lawnmower past me on the sidewalk, the old lady standing alone on the corner of the street in a puffy coat. I find myself jotting down threads of dialogue that run through my brain and racing to write down a simile, metaphor, or beautiful thought that crosses my mind before I forget it.

I don’t know if I’ll ever go back to performing stories; right now I’m comfortable here at my keyboard. All those performances were other people’s stories, still lovely and entertaining, but there is something different about creating your own story. A story that has never existed before–that can’t exist unless you create it because no one else is capable of creating the exact same one.

Isn’t that a fun thought?

If Austenland Was Real…

I’ve been dying to make a regency dress for so long but I never got around to it. Until now…!
When I’m working on a writing project I can’t work on anything else. Any down time I get I either brainstorm ideas, run to my laptop, or doodle my characters’ names. But this summer, as soon as I finished writing my second book and editing my first book, I felt like I had nothing to do in my spare time. I needed another summer project, so I stopped by Joann’s on my way home from work and finally picked out fabric to make a regency era dress. Yay!
My two favorite places to shop are either book stores or fabric stores. I can spend hours and hours at Joann’s. But luckily my feet were already sore from work so I was only there about two hours. That’s short for me.
After a while, I narrowed down my fabric selection to a cartful of at least a dozen fabrics.

I wanted to make a ball gown, so I was looking at the satin, lace, and chiffon options. But then I couldn’t decide on a color. In Mischief and Manors, there’s a significance to the color pink and a certain pink dress. So in the end, I decided to make the dress a pretty rose pink.

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Eventually I found a combination I liked and pulled out all my coupons and got out of there spending only $14. (I did have a $25 gift card) but I pretended that it really only cost $14. That sounds a lot better, right? Then I hurried home and got started. I used the simplicity pattern 4055 for the most part, but I did alter it a little. It turned out pretty cute! I used sew-on embroidery flowers on the bodice and a simple lace trim around the neckline and finished it with a ribbon at the waist.

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The most fun I had was trying it on and talking in a British accent while posing for pictures.

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It was such a fun project and I can’t wait to make another one! Another reason I didn’t make a regency dress before now was because I couldn’t think of a time I would wear it. I figured I could just make one and hold out hope that Austenland would become a real thing. Or time machines. But then I realized that those would probably never happen, and I settled for the next best thing: My book launch party! I know it won’t be for a few more months but that was a good enough reason for me. Even though it’s not Austenland, when you see me there, never fear, I’ll still most likely be looking like this:

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Tally ho!