Comments From Our Clients
"Last fall, when my then-10-year-old son began a Druidawn writing club with Miriam, he was a reluctant and reticent writer. But, during the course of this past year, he has blossomed into someone who not only loves writing but whose sense of identity around writing has shifted too. He described himself to me recently as someone who has "a gift for writing" (his words).
And he is now writing a book based on a world and a cast of characters that he developed during his writing club with Miriam. He happily works on it every day. In other words, he now writes every day for pleasure!
This is a testament to Miriam's skill as a writing coach and the ingenuity of the writing program she designed and uses. Miriam and her writing program are able to spark the creativity of reluctant writers and most importantly, get them to just write -- to just get lots of words down on paper -- which lets them see quickly that they are in fact writers!
I am so grateful for both Miriam and her Druidawn program and would encourage parents of other reluctant writers to give it a try."
- MB in California
"Druidawn is better than World of Warcraft!"
"I have to tell you that you are truly a gift! Benjamin's greatest want in his life in the past year was to go on an adventure and ride a dragon. To the point, where he was really starting to be sad about this because there is not a way we can support these desires in real life. Couple this with his little creative mind that wanted to express his ideas with no outlet, no one around us living in the same "place" he does, and a dose of dyslexia and you can picture, I think, his complex set of feelings.
The first week, Benjamin worked six hours to write his 500 or so words. He gets to hear such sophisticated, creative young writers, it is wonderful! He sees others who share his interests, and he got to ride a dragon last week and this week in the game!!! He is so happy. What you don't see is that he is working on elaborating what he has written, and he is drawing orcs too! Thank you, thank you, thank you!"
"When I first started Druidawn, I was ten, and had very low self-esteem, I hated writing, and could never see myself as an author. Enter Druidawn, Miriam and Cara really helped me come out of my shell, and showed me that writers aren't all crotchety old men hunched over a paper. I looked forward to writing, and it has since become an outlet for emotions, and a way to express myself. I learned that just because you don't think you're writing is good, others may. I learned that everyone has their own style, and not to judge my work. Druidawn also gave me a great chance to get published, both with writing and art, and Larp, crazy as it sounds, helped me form relations, and gain a new sense of confidence. I feel respected when I come to class or camp, and am always more eager to share. This will be my fourth year, and I am very exited to come back to camp, I do yearlong classes, and really encourage people to try it!"
"Joshua loves this program! It encourages good writing skills, social skills and collaboration for the growing demographics of home-schooled children. Thanks for making this available."
"I wanted to thank you once again for Druidawn and the wonderful Kindred Spirits Writing Club. I told you last spring how much Quincy is enjoying the club but if it's possible, she likes it even more this year. For two days after each Skype meeting, she's on a literary high, recounting other girls' stories, and their feedback on hers.
And what a group-- they seem so compatible! They regularly Skype with each other, just chatting, but often writing together or critiquing each others' work. You've set up a lovely dynamic of supportive criticism and positive feedback. Quincy absolutely thrives on it. And I love that she's made some very dear friends who live all over the country.
I don't know how typical 9-year-olds write, but I think her writing is pretty advanced. She says she learns so much from the feedback she gets, and she incorporates the notes she hears other girls getting into her own writing.
I'm sure you've heard it all before, but I know I like to hear positive feedback, so I'm telling you again! We are thrilled with her participation and so thankful for your kind guidance of the group."
- Chris O
“Thanks again for the wonderful experience. We are so glad we made the trip for the camp - her creative juices are flowing like crazy. She wrote over 7,000 words this week while at camp and then in the hotel she designed her own role-playing game, has made a map of her kingdoms on photoshop, and has been busy drawing pictures of her characters.
Everyday we got a blow by blow of what she did with you and we are just so impressed with the creative and varied activities you provided. She said Market Day was one of the most fun things she has ever done. You and Druidawn inspire such varied kids to write, create, play and relate.
Esme felt comfortable with all of your staff, loved the feedback provided to everyone that shared, appreciated that you never talked down to anyone, and liked that it was ok to opt out of the outdoor activities to write instead. She has had very, very few group experiences that she actually liked and your camp is now at the top of the list. She didn't particularly bond with any one person, but that didn't seem to matter. She felt safe, engaged, and inspired. We are so use to complaints about other kids, boring and "stupid" activities, poor pacing and class management ... it is the reason why we home schooled and have her in independent study now... and we got no complaints from your camp.
None! I can't tell you how exciting it is for us, as parents, to have Esme experience herself in a group and have it be a positive experience. Thank you so much."
“Hi Cara, Just wanted to thank you for spending so much time with the kids during Druidawn over the past session! There’s no question it’s one of the highlights of Ethan’s week – and I’m sure that’s in large part to the atmosphere of fun that you create during the calls. I’m so glad he has had this program over the past year. Thanks again and take care.”
“Mom, I wrote a going away note last night to writing camp teachers. It's nearly two pages long. I love writing camp. You know, I even love to write now. I really love it.
This is no small miracle -- My son has always lacked confidence in his own writing and reading. He's really hated it-- he was even afraid to go to this camp! The fact that he is so excited about camp is one thing, but to have him say, "Mom, I love to write." at the end of camp -- it brought tears to my eyes. Your camp has exceeded our expectations in every way. We thank you.”
- Martha L
"I wanted to express my admiration for the way you guys manage to keep the kids engaged! I overheard Annalise saying she wanted to have a 3 hour session next time. Both Carleton and Annalise rank this very high on their list of activities. I had not anticipated that it would go so well given the difficulties in interacting through skype. Again, I am impressed with the way you handle those challenges!"
"I have played Druidawn for a long time now and I have learned so much from it. If you decide to allow your kids to join, they will have a great time, and they will learn amazing writing skills too!! Plus they get to play an awesome role-playing game too!”
"Druidawn Creations is an awesome organization that inspires young people to be creative and have fun while learning. My children attended a camp this summer and absolutely loved every moment. I highly recommend this to folks thinking about Druidawn."
"My children have attended Druidawn writing clubs for the past few years and love it! It's one of the summer activities they look forward to all year long. The workshops engage their minds, help them grow socially, and are a blast of fun! Miriam and Cara are very professional and provide information early in the year as to the time, location and pricing for the camps. This makes it very easy to plan for the camps into our schedule and budget. They are also very talented teachers and know how to encourage the kids to participate while also keeping the activities fun. We highly recommend Druidawn Creations summer camps, especially for children ages 8-15."
"Our son was a very reluctant writer. After he started working with Miriam and Cara in the Druidawn Creative Writing Club he gained so much enthusiasm to write. This program is genius. Miriam and Cara are patient, extremely creative, enthusiastic, and seem to be able to read the participants and meet them just where they are. I have seen them lead groups in various settings and with different kids; they always somehow can tune into just what that child is about, know how to communicate with them, form a bond, and work with them to nurture the student's love of writing and adventure. I highly recommend any program that Miriam and Cara create."
- Lynn A.
"My son, who has difficulty with writing, joined a Druidawn Writing Club. He absolutely loves it! It has inspired him to write beautiful, creative fantasy stories. That has given him the confidence to write in other styles as well. I'm a big fan!"
- Marian. V
"A brilliant tutor and writer, she really inspired me to write stories and I have now published one and working on a second. Even better the lessons are really fun. You (or your child) can become a good author in so short a time I would not think is possible."
- Ben. C
"Hi Miriam. This is overdue, but I just wanted to thank you again for the fantastic writing class Ryan took for the 3rd year! He had a busy summer, but really made time for your class. He remarked that each day, the discussions focused on exactly where he was having trouble, and the day he missed was a topic he felt good about already! Whatever you do with those kids in your class is a BIG hit! Thank you again for all your efforts, and for your flexibility with Ryan's tight schedule."
- Mary & Pete Byrne
"Dearest Miriam- This is a conversation I had over MSN messenger tonight with one of my best friends at my new school, where-(I am glad to inform you) I am doing well. I still miss the gang at Brideun and all of the fun we had together. But after this conversation I realized how much I missed you, and I wanted you to know this, and read it.
'You know, Li-chan, you could also do with some traditional writing coaching. It helps A LOT later in life. especially if you want to be a novelist. You have to tame the raw beginnings of talent and groom it into a cultured and adult style of writing - that can only come from an experienced artist of the craft. I know FROM experience. I have been serious about writing since second grade and have been in a club for it since then. Then, later- at my last school, the coach at the creative writing club was my language arts teacher! And she was one of the best teachers I have EVER had. Like, everything I know and love about writing I learned from her. Like from-how to create a believable character, with true emotion and solid base to-a good plot line. She Really helped me a ton. My biggest problem when I came to her was an absolute lack of confidence in everything I did. I gave up easily because it was all too hard and complicated and I was TERRIFIED of the things that I was so proud of being belittled and made fun of. So, she taught me the beginnings- First to have confidence, then how to inspire myself and to help inspire others, how to develop a firm and strong character, and then how to bring them to life. How to defeat and stay away from Clichés and what to do to be original. then after she covered every aspect of creativity on the weekends she would help us with technical stuff during the school week. From every aspect of the English Language too, like- grammar, tense, spelling, style, aspect, poetry, idioms, roots, linguistics, famous writers, time periods, emotions and perspective. She even taught us how to describe a cookie so well that we would have our readers foaming at the mouth. And the best thing was that she NEVER lost patience, or yelled or made us feel stupid. she always inspired us to do our best and stick to what we felt was the best of our selves and our creations. She was possibly the best teacher I ever had, and she is the only reason I ever made ANYTHING of my ability to write. Without her I never would have had the confidence to do anything, or even to express myself. So in the end I owe it all to her. Li-Chan... I think you really would have liked her. she made learning one of the most fun experiences I have ever had.'
So in the End Miriam, I wanted to send you this to tell you that I appreciate everything you have ever done for me, and that I will always cherish it and use all of your wisdom and wonderful advice. Thank you, Thank You, Thank You."
- Jaime McNear
"Hi Miriam, I just wanted to thank you for letting Katie participate yesterday in the club. I think that she was very happy to be with a group of kids who were "like her". She's identifying more and more with the 2E's as she becomes more conscious of her differences from her peers at school. On the way home we talked about how the kids are writing stories about their characters and their adventures. When we got home, she picked up a notebook and began to write, wrote for 3 hours straight and right through dinner. At bedtime I had to take the notebook from her so that she would go to sleep. She woke up early this morning and got back to work, pausing to crawl into my bed and watch for my eyes to open so that she could tell me what is happening in her story! She insisted on taking the notebook to school so that she could share it with friends and teachers. When I gave her permission from the get-go to just work on her ideas and not worry about spelling, she jumped in and didn't look back. After all of the time that she spent, as of this morning at 8 she had produced two double spaced pages (not front to back). Her letters are very clear, but the words are her own interpretation of the spelling, so she's reading it to us to rewrite as she goes along. I'm so glad that she's not discouraged by the fact that it takes so long to get her ideas out. I think that it actually helps her to clarify her ideas and come up with descriptive language to create her scenes and dialogue, because she's spending a great deal of time visualizing the story while her left brain cranks out the words on paper. I think that this is the beginning of a whole new adventure for Katie, and she's loving every minute of it."
"Miriam, Jonah is very happy to be working with you. He's already singing your praises. He told me this morning that you are really good at teaching writing. He said the Character Sheet was a very clever way to start. He loved filling that out. Thanks"
"Hi Miriam, I just have to tell you how impressed I am with Stephanie's creative writing abilities. The Writers Guild had a critique session last weekend. Each participant brought a piece of their work and read for 5 minutes. Then, the rest of the participants critiqued for 5 minutes. Stephanie's comments to other members were absolutely fabulous. One member said that Stephanie gave him the best comments of anyone. Many people commented on how wonderful Stephanie's suggestions and comments were. That is a tribute to you! THANKS! Stephanie also read the first two pages from her first chapter. I heard wonderful comments about that too."
"JEREMY LOVED YOUR SUMMER CAMP. YOU DO SUCH LOVING AND WONDERFUL CREATIVE WORK WITH THE KIDS...YOUR GENTLENESS AND CREATIVITY ARE GREATLY APPRECIATED. THANKS..."
- REBECCA AND BRIAN
“I just happened upon your site and am so thankful for the find! I teach 4th graders, several of whom are identified dyslexic. Your descriptions could help me recognize what must be happening when certain expectations are frustrating them...I will never look at their efforts in the same way again -- now I can appreciate the tremendous effort they must be putting forth! And, to think I thought they were being lazy/ sloppy in not taking time to review/ edit their work! Thank you!!!!”
“Miriam, Dylan is planning to go on his school’s trip to Washington D.C. in the spring and has decided to sacrifice Dragon writers and apply that money toward his trip. He has really enjoyed it and I am very thankful for all you have done for him over the years. I wish you all the best with these clubs that attract so many young writers- it is a great service you provide. Take care.”
- Margot W.
“Miriam: Ned continues to be thrilled about Druidawn and Dragon Writers--he is excited to go to meetings and excited to write for meetings. I hope I can get him to type some of his writing--it would give him so much freedom.”
- Pam G.
“Hurrah! I was looking at your creative writing website the other day and Sam peeked in over my shoulder, intrigued...I let his intrigue build until he had digested a few paragraphs, and then I let it slip that he was reading the work of his summer camp director. He grinned and said, 'Thanks for signing me up, mom.' To confirm what I read of your method, I'll throw in this sweet anecdote: I lead a Jr. Great Books group with kindergarteners at Lafayette Elementary (my children's school). Yesterday, we were wrapping up our work on the African folktale "Guinea Fowl and Rabbit Get Justice". I asked the children how they wanted to say "goodbye" to the story, with which we had done much fun, interpretive work. One boy wanted to verbally "write" our own alternative ending as a group, which we did, in a round, each adding a sentence or two as we passed the story around the circle. It was delightful, incorporating details from the world of the story and the world of the children, as the ending morphed into their reality. It took only 5 minutes. Each child used his or her character puppet which they created for re-enacting the story that day. I thought immediately of how you encourage adults to get kids to "write" verbally! It seems to be a natural activity for them, given the seed crystal of a few constructs, like what the folktale offered. It was fun for me to connect to even a finger of the work that is central to your professional world. Thanks for making your work so accessible. I encouraged our school's TAG director to check out your website, as well, and will continue to dialogue with her about your work. We are a TAG focus school, and our specific goal area this school year is in writing, so this is particularly interesting right now!”
- Michelle C.
“Hi, I read the 'Solo Build It fanatic' post and so wanted to see your site, and I'm moved to write to you. I just had to tell you 3 things:
1. Your site design is awesome - I physically went 'ooh' on opening the page.
2. Your content has inspired ME to create a little world/stories for my kids, using your worksheets, and that they can add to, making it OURS.
3. Your passion on your carpe diem page could have brought tears to my eyes!!!!!!
Keep up the good work”
“I'm not sure I can speak *for* Noah, exactly, but I'll tell you three things I noticed. The first was the way he wrote the couple of nights he chose to write at home (one of these I think he did not present for 'credit'). He articulated somewhat what he was thinking, that he was deciding what person to write in, he did some pacing, as you'd noted, in one of these instances. So whether it was my appreciation of the process under these new circumstances, or his appreciation and development of the process, or how much the 'process' itself has changed, I don't know for sure, but it seemed a significant shift from painful sitting and trying to figure out what to write.
The second was that he said "I love writing" -- unequivocally.
The third was an overall change in his demeanor that happened early in the first week. It was as though, in a moment, he grew into himself. Spark that I have missed for some long time now, huge confidence, all that imagination channeled. Really happy and confident boy. Full of himself in the best kind of way.”
- Adrienne M.
“Aidan had an excellent time yesterday at Dragon Writers. He couldn't stop talking about it. Actually, for Aidan that's not news. What was really remarkable was that within a few hours of arriving home, he brought out his AlphaSmart so he could start on writing the work you had asked of him. It's very unusual for him to initiate writing, so I was tickled for him! Thank you and keep up the great work!”
- Karen B.
“Jim and I want to say a big Thank You for all the help and inspiration you've given Bridget over your three years together. When she read us her Hamlet analysis, Jim and I both about dropped our teeth at how incredibly well she writes. Jim turned to me and said "That's Miriam." I realize she has a certain amount of God-given talent --- that's a biggie I know --- but she wouldn't have been inspired to be so creative had she not been hooked up with you all these years, and been given the freedom to be creative. You have really, truly propelled her growth in becoming a promising writer. The seeds are planted, and you were the reason for that happening. Our thanks go out to you, your creativity, your wonderful classes and program, and to all the people who help you with what you do.”
- Gail S.
“3 ½ years ago, my then second grade daughter struggled in a public school gifted student program. She had stopped reading, writing and even putting her name on a worksheet. Her self-esteem hovered below zero and her normally sunny personality had melted away. As parents we became frantic for reasons and solutions.
Our daughter was then diagnosed by a local but nationally known expert as having a learning disorder. Knowing the “why” led to asking the “now what”? Of course the expert had a list of recommendations. I asked, mother to mother, what should I do first.
She did not hesitate; “enroll your daughter in Miriam Darnell’s Druidawn writing club.”
Thankful for something I could do immediately, I did just that.
I will never forget the first Sunday afternoon club meeting, November 2000. The group we tried was all little girls with similar issues and was called, “Dream Catchers.” My daughter was born eccentric, and for that afternoon she dressed in leopard pj’s, a pink feather boa, Tweety Bird slippers and sunglasses. This had been a more or less normal outfit in the past and I was actually happy to see the old friends back on. I thought at the time that she may testing this new idea, seeing what the initial reactions would be.
Miriam didn’t bat an eye, welcoming her with twinkling eyes. I left my daughter with my cell phone number, expecting to be called early with, “I want to go home now,” and waited at a neighborhood park. That call never came.
When I picked my daughter up, she skipped!!! down the walk and jumped into the car. She jabbered all the way home about the kids, (“I made a new friend, Arnelle. She wants to be a mushroom when she grows up!”). But mostly she jabbered about Miriam and the stories she wanted to tell, like they had been locked up inside of her somewhere and Miriam was the magical key master.
My daughter writes constantly now, developing characters, plots stories, excels at essays and vocabulary, plays imagination driven role-playing games with the kids in the club and at school. The words are still coming, the tools at her fingertips, on her lips or safely tucked away to find, catch or file them away.
Now I look back on the second grade disaster as actually a blessing in disguise. It is so hard for parents when they can’t help their children. So we look for a safe place for our kids, if even for an hour or two. Especially when they might have a broken wing or extra vulnerable souls. Miriam has offered a soft, gentle lap while she magically repairs what ails them, provides guidance and a safe nest when they fly on their own., a place where their words to be safe and to be heard.
I could never minimize what Miriam did for our family that first Sunday afternoon. She understood the trust and has never faltered in the role she has in the lives of these kids. They know they are safe. Period. What they don’t know yet, but will when they are parents, is that Miriam is a gift.”
- Kate M.
“Miriam has mentored and nurtured and befriended each of my five children. Her creative vision and ability to inspire excellence in her writing club members has impressed and astounded me over the last eight years of our association with her. We consider Miriam to be an honorary member of our family and I am so grateful for her help and encouragement with raising my five children.”
- Diane Rodriguez
“Dear Miriam, what can I say but an enormous thank you!!! Your writing club has turned my 12 year old son Seann into a reader and a writer. I can't believe the transformation. As you know, Seann's dyslexia was really keeping him from a world he loved - the world of fantasy fiction. His only entry into this realm was waiting for others to have the time to sit down and read to him, as his level of reading skill didn't allow him access. Then, he would have to work on his "reader" to turn an hour reading session into 3-4 hours.
January 2003 he enrolled in your Dragon Writers afterschool program. The combination of writing to gain skill levels for his invented character, the interactive role playing games and the suggested reading materials did the trick - within months he was reading well enough to pick up most fantasy fiction books and read them on his own. But it didn't stop there. His reading and comprehension was equally improved in other school-related reading and his writing skills have been unleashed. He is currently working on his own fantasy fiction novel and it is quite good.
I could go on for pages. You and your program have changed Seann's life (and mine as well - as his main "reader"). You have bestowed a gift that is beyond compare and priceless. Thank you from the very depths of my heart. We will both remember your gifted teaching skills and your unique curriculm forever. I hope that your program will reach as many children as possible because I am certain that there are others who would benefit too.”
- The Stoner Family