Editor’s Note: Sonya attended our Young Writers Program’s weeklong middle school summer camp this year. Here’s what she learned!

By Sonya Zakarian

As I walk through the black gates and up the porch steps of Lighthouse Writers Workshop for my fourth summer camp, I feel a wave of relief wash over me. I’m back. I’m back to the first-floor parlor with its humble piano in the corner and the second-floor parlor with the green-carpeted floors. I’m back to sunny lunches on the porch and in the grotto with its wooden tables and black-seated chairs with yellow dots. It’s all nice and familiar.

But it’s new. I’m elated to see my old teachers and friends and to meet new ones. During that one week, I develop a log line and outline the plot for my new novel, learn about flash fiction, create a mythical national park, write a song, and write a myth about the creation of islands. My novel idea has been lurking around in my head earlier on in the summer, and the novel class at Lighthouse pushes me to get it all out on paper.

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Often, in middle school, it’s easy to get shut down. Your voice may be silenced by someone who is louder. Your interests may be unnoticed by people who seem more popular. But at Lighthouse no one is better than anyone else. Everyone is bonded together by their love for writing, which opens up many more opportunities for getting to know each other. Even though you’re only there for a week, you can make great friends and meet amazing and unique people at Lighthouse.

Finally, when the week is over, the moment comes when everyone files into the grotto and sits down in their seats, fingering their papers with sweaty hands – The Reading. Students come up to the podium one by one and recite their best piece of writing from the week. I hear poems and prose and other amazing things, and I feel proud to be part of such a great writing community.

Having a last name that starts with Z, I’m accustomed to going last. When my bio is read and my name is called, I walk up to the podium, gripping my paper for dear life. Yet, when I clear my throat and begin to speak, the words come out in a clear voice like a running waterfall, and I speak a little louder when I hear people laugh at my jokes. When I finish, I thank the audience and go back to my seat, smiling. It’s always hard to leave Lighthouse. But it’s easier when I tell myself I’m always going to come back.

This post is part of our annual Lit Counts series, in which writers and readers express why supporting and elevating literary arts—the mission of Lighthouse Writers Workshop— is important to them. If you agree, consider supporting Lighthouse on Colorado Gives Day. Mark your calendar for December 6 or schedule your gift now. Thank you!