“I” The Guy Creative Writing Camp

My Experience as a Summer Camp Counselor

By Eshaan Mani

Writing helps build bonds and make new friendships, while broadening our horizons and getting the creative juices flowing. iWrite’s “i” The Guy Creative Writing Summer Camp allows students in the 3rd and 4th grades to experience the magic of writing a story.

I had the chance to be a camp counselor and help take the students on a journey—one of self-growth and lots of fun for both myself and the students. From mapping out their characters on the first two days of camp (which ranged from footballs to dragons to mice) all the way to the last few days of camp (which focused more on the composition of their stories), I can say I had a blast with all the students and made many new friends.

The campers were ever so eager to dive into the creative process of writing and their zealous attitudes were contagious. I couldn’t help but smile as I saw their faces brighten: a spark lighting in their mind, and the pencil in their hands began moving at breakneck speeds. There were times that I had to help lift them up and over the obstacles they faced—times when I learned how to improvise. In order to help them, I was forced to reflect back on how I dealt with the issues they faced, such as writer’s block. 

As the week progressed, I found that being a camp counselor and interacting with the campers was mutually enriching. As the students learned the techniques of being a writer, I grew with them. I learned tons about wildlife, specifically cheetahs, from one camper, while he adopted cursive after seeing me write on a worksheet. I learned different techniques of writing from another student, who played with perspectives in his story, and grew in my descriptive abilities when a student gave a personality to an inanimate object.

At the end of the week, all the campers and camp counselors, including myself, had left the camp with not only a strong drive to write but many priceless experiences.

Spark by Alex Zhang: A Review by Eshaan Mani

Ladies and gentlemen, the wait is over… iWrite Youth Club member Alex Zhang’s book Spark is finally out! Spark is a young-adult science fiction novel which traces the journey of Jackson and his friends Wesley, Subulo, and Ruby. Spark is the first book in a triad under the label Ember. 

Jackson and Wesley are just two normal teens who are sucked into a parallel universe after their dealings with mysterious Subulo, an otherworldly creature. On their journeys, they meet Ruby and other characters who are best described as… well, unique. There’s Ibeti, with his lolling purple tongue, Icelandic zombie Russell, and Subulo’s murderous alter ego Croweley, who has some questionable intents. And at the end of their journeys together, Jackson’s life is wrenched from his hands… in more ways than one. 

You can tell that Spark was written with lots of love, thought, and passion. One big thing I loved about this book was the comic timing and sharp wit throughout. If you know Alex, you know about his killer sense of humor, and that humor comes across in his writing as well. Even the most morbid of scenes are lightened by Subulo’s sarcasm and Wesley’s millennial sayings. I’m not really an avid sci-fi reader, but I was hooked on Spark and wished it was longer than 158 pages. 

The unpredictability of what is going to happen on the next page is also something to admire. There’s no set path for the characters, and some of the turns border on the ridiculous side of the spectrum. But it’s all well and good in a sci-fi novel, isn’t it? 

Overall, Spark is a must-read to add to your library checkout lists, and I rate the book 10/10 – it’s captivating, humorous, and a perfect read for a cozy evening. Congrats to Alex on his first book and I hope that you, reading this blog post now, enjoy it!

For more information please visit: longtalepublishing.com/product/spark

Pen and Paint Bringing the Community Together: How a Nonprofit is Spreading the Universal Language of Art in Houston

By Eshaan Mani

            With the world being brought closer by social media, increased global mobility, and the ability to share knowledge with the tap of a key, America’s diversity is increasing, and a prime example of this is in the city of Houston. Houston welcomes more immigrants and refugees than any other city in the US, and is a melting pot of languages, cultures, ideas, and faces. The Gulfton neighborhood in Houston is home to the majority of these immigrants and refugees, and there is an organization whose vision is to unite the community under the magic of art for these newcomers to Houston. 

            That organization is CHAT, or Culture of Health – Advancing Together. CHAT started what they would love to see as an annual creative writing contest last summer, in association with Mayor Sylvester Turner’s Complete Communities initiative and as part of the Visit my Neighborhood program. This contest gave kids and adults of all backgrounds the opportunity to share their talent and submit their writing.  In its first writing contest, twelve writing pieces were chosen as the inspiration for murals, which would be painted along the ‘Gulfton Story Trail’, encompassing the whole neighborhood. 

            My involvement with CHAT was rather by chance. I was bored one day last summer and was browsing the internet for any writing contests I could enter, as writing is my passion. I found CHAT’s website and read about the contest. I was immediately intrigued and loved the initiative. Fueled by the motivation of a good cause, I began writing a multi-faceted poem about family, belief in oneself, and diversity. I submitted to the contest and waited.

            In mid-October, nine artists employed by CHAT chose the pieces which they were inspired by and began the creative process. My poem was chosen by Vivienne Dang, a wonderful and talented artist, to depict on the wall of Jane Long Academy. “The mural took me six days…This is my hobby, so I came on the weekends and at night after work, and painted. I worked with the administration at Jane Long, and I needed to portray the school’s spirit as well as honor the Gulfton Story Trail’s initiatives for the project. I really believe that diversity is seeing beyond the colors of our skin and embracing our differences,” Ms. Dang said. 

            On April 2, I received the news that my writing submission served as an inspiration for Ms. Dang’s work, and was told that the tour of the murals would be that Saturday. So, I woke up bright and early, and journeyed to the Gulfton neighborhood. I had the privilege to meet the founder of CHAT, Dr. Aisha Siddiqui. Dr. Siddiqui explained her shift from Doctor of Public Health to nonprofit founder. She had always wished she could help society in a significant way. Through her doctorate at UT, she met many immigrant women who faced troubles adapting to a new society. Then she realized that she needed to help the immigrants and refugees in Southwest Houston live a better life in the United States. 

            Dr. Siddiqui informed me that “more than one hundred languages are spoken in this area, but art is the universal language… there is no need to understand any language for art. The pen and paint can touch hearts and change lives, and by combining them, I hope to bring together this community of multiple ethnicities”. While we were driving around the area, I felt a renewed affinity for art as I looked at the murals painted on such a grand scale. As Dr. Siddiqui said, “you can just take a full day standing here and looking at these paintings, taking in each detail and how the colors pop out at you. It is magical”. 

The Problem on Maple Street

By Alyssa Reid

            The screaming has finally stopped. As I cautiously turn my music down, I curse Nancy Jones from next door for having a pool party for her birthday.

            Because some of us have summer reading.

            Then again, she’s, like, ten. She doesn’t know about the wonders of ninth grade.

            So far I’ve heard a hurricane’s worth of splashing, a horror-movie-scream version of Marco Polo, and—best of all—a gloriously off-key version of “Happy Birthday.”

            And, you know, you’d think the kids would be quiet when they were eating cake—some luxurious chocolate flavor, according to Mrs. Joes, from her three weeks’ worth of her bragging about (and my dreading) this party.

            Butno. Charlie pushed May into the pool and the screaming was back.

            I’m pulled out of my angry reminiscing by a blood-chilling: “The red popsicle’s mine!”

            I slam my head into my book and turn my music back up. I can analyze A Tale of Two Citieslater. I let out a groan, but I can still hear them screaming over those popsicles as if they don’t all taste the same.

            They must be really passionate about what color they want their tongues to be.

            After deciding some toddlers aren’t worth the hearing damage, I turn my music down again and check my room for things that could drown the noise out.

            Blankets? Not heavy enough. My closet’s too small to shut myself into as well, and anyway, I wouldn’t want Mom asking how I managed to get myself in there (probably after a firefighter had pulled me out).

            It’s 3:23. There’s got to be something I can do.