Who We Are and Why We Do What We Do
Miriam Darnell, M.Ed
For as long as I can remember, creative writing has always been my passion. As a child and teenager, the real world was never half as exciting as the imaginary one that lived a very active life in my mind every day. Any tree I stood near immediately became my friend, filled with ancient stories only I could understand. The bees flying from flower to flower were really fairies in disguise, and the rocky mountain surfaces were really dragons that only I could see. Any book, game, or movie I could find that fed my overactive imagination was quickly devoured, regardless of how much homework sat on my desk awaiting my attention. I wrote many stories and novels when I was young that no one ever read but myself. I was too embarrassed to show them to my family, and the few teachers who I connected with had no time or interest in reading them. At times I felt so utterly alone, though I had a loving family and lots of friends. No one knew the imaginary world that was constantly in the background, if not the foreground, of my mind. Well, as the tragedy goes, I grew up, went to college, and pursued more "productive" ways to spend my time. I worked, studied, got married, and did all the things proper grown-ups were supposed to do, letting my wild imagination recede to the back reaches of my consciousness. It wasn't until I became an assistant teacher at a school for gifted and creative children that a truly magical thing happened. The teacher I worked with noticed that I had a talent for working with students one on one. I enjoyed thinking of creative ways to assist them when they needed help and challenge them when they just needed a boost. I made games out of their lessons and tried to access their imaginations any way I could. It wasn't long before people were hiring me to give private literacy tutoring and mentoring to their gifted or gifted/learning disabled children.
It was through my private mentoring that I met a highly talented thirteen-year-old writer named Nate Goldstein. He had a passion for fantasy and science fiction, just as I did, and his skill with the written word was awe-inspiring for his age. Our mentoring project together was to write and self-publish a fantasy novel of short stories written by kids for kids. Soon other young, highly talented writers and artists joined us and we created a fantasy/science fiction world from the ground up. And so Druidawn was born. It took us over a year of writing, copying, and marketing the novel (going from bookstore to bookstore on foot), until we managed to sell enough copies to make back our expenses. There was never any profit in the project, but the sheer joy of producing and marketing our own book was reward enough. We actually sold ten copies of it to the world-famous Tattered Cover Book Store, and when they sold those copies in two weeks, they reordered ten more! It was a tremendous achievement for all of us. But we knew that Druidawn wasn't long enough or professional enough to market to a real publishing company, and the time and expense of self-publishing was too great, so Druidawn eventually went the way of all things.
However, my new career as mentor to gifted writers was just taking off. I found that by working with bright, imaginative children, I could utilize my own starving imagination for something productive. My clientele continued to grow until I finally had enough highly talented writers to form my own creative writing club. As word caught on, one club of twelve children turned into two, then three, four, and at last to five clubs with students ranging in age from 7-20 years old. Now that I have forty regular students enrolled in my creative writing clubs, I truly realize that I was never alone in my appreciation of fantasy and science fiction I just never found the right people to share it with. I am privileged to work with so many motivated, imaginative, and ingenious young authors. And I'm pleased to offer them what I would have died to have as a child, a mentor who believes in them.
Cara Allen, B.A.
Fantasy art is my first passion, as I have a degree in Fine Arts from the University of Southampton in England. But ever since I was a child, I've always loved writing as well, especially murder mysteries, thrillers and fantasy stories. I'm very playful, sometimes worse than the kids I work with, and I have an overactive imagination that just won't quit. But I put these things to good use in working with reluctant writers or kids who struggle for whatever reason.
I have taught gifted, learning disabled, and Autism Spectrum students through my position as co-director of Druidawn Summer Fantasy Writing, Art and Gaming Camp at Macintosh Academy School and working as a private mentor and tutor since 2009. During this time, I have come to value children of all backgrounds, abilities, and temperaments, as long as they have a good imagination and know how to play.
I enjoy using art to encourage students to write. You can see some of my own fantasy art by clicking here.
Shannon Stockdale-Elftman, M.Ed.
I was five when I realized I wanted to be a writer. That's how old I was when I wrote my first—too bad it couldn't have been my last—poem. It was a poem for my mother.
I love the way you make the sound of love beat in my heart.
My mother was so proud of that little poem she tacked it up on the refrigerator, and eventually placed it in the "special" Tupperware container alongside her precious family pictures and my first report cards. She still pulls that poem out to this day to show relatives and friends even though they've all seen it.
At any rate, the response I got from my mother from just that one line prompted me to continue writing. I think it's safe to say that I spent ninety percent of my time living in my own head, and in the head of other writers. Even though I had a few difficulties to overcome to become a proficient reader—I am dyslexic—I refused to be denied the joy of reading. I applied myself to the task and eventually overtook my peers in reading comprehension. My dyslexia means I'm a terrible speller, but that's what spell check was invented for.
When I hit those awkward teen years I wrote more poems, you know the type of poetry that all teenagers try at least one point in their lives. That, "no one understands me, my boyfriend dumped me, my mom's embarrassing" kind of stuff. Eventually I came to the realization that poetry wasn't for me. I tend to think in a large, melodramatic scope. I am a novelist, or in other words, a liar on a massive scope. I have nothing but respect for poets, but I was relived when I discovered I didn't have what it took to be one. They are a generally short-lived lot after all.
So, now I am a grown woman with two children. Writing is still my passion, even if my husband does like cracking jokes about starving artists. People ask me what drew me to writing in the first place, I think a lot of writers get this question; some of them just get paid to answer it. Well, I don't get paid to answer it, and it's a good thing, because I couldn't give a straight answer anyway. It was so many things. A love of the way words sound on the tongue, the way a writer seems to communicate with the person reading their book--a phenomenon that Stephen King likened to telepathy. Just slipping into that private world in my head, finding the perfect word to describe a situation, all of it appeals to me like a siren call. Sometimes that call leads me toward doom on the rocky reef, sometimes I find myself in the mythical land of Atlantis. Either way, I enjoyed the ride.
Now I enjoy sharing that ride with other people. There is a certain satisfaction in being a guide in the rough waters of writing. It not only gives me hope that art of writing and the habit of reading is not dying; it also inspires me to write every day. I think I get almost as much out of the experience as the people I mentor. But don't tell them that, or they'll start charging me.
Eric Silverman, M.S.
Eric has been a Druidawn instructor since spring 2015. He enjoys reading and has a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature, as well as a Master of Science degree in English Education. He has taught English 101 at a local community college and has written many short stories and poems. Eric is also a licensed massage therapist, specializing in Cranio-Sacral therapy. His love of helping others creatively has always been the driving force behind his work.