Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Gail Sobat on YouthWrite

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There are some pretty amazing places for kids to learn writing in Canada. One of them is called YouthWrite. It’s based out of Edmonton and run by Gail Sobat. Gail was one of the first people to hire me as a youth writing teacher outside of my community. She has a great sense of fun and loves to impart the knowledge of writing and creating to young people by bringing in some pretty amazing writers and artists to work with them. Recently I pinned Gail down for a virtual interview about her program.

What is YouthWrite?

YouthWrite is a camp for kids who love to write…just about anything!©

Who can attend?

Anyone between the ages of 11-19.

What is the teaching philosophy behind your program and how does it differ from what the kids get in school?

YouthWrite is an inclusive, multi-disciplinary writing camp that offers young writers the chance to work with talented instructors from many facets of the performing, visual, musical, dance, film, and written arts. YouthWrite Society Canada is all about the creative arts and creative writing and celebrates critical and creative thinking. We seek to broaden young participants’ global and environmental awareness, modelling writing as a powerful tool for activism.

Is the philosophy what makes YouthWrite so important to youth writers?

Yes! YouthWrite is an inclusive and a secular camp that celebrates diversity. We've created an immersion experience that addresses and promotes twenty-first century multiple literacies – that's why we have a multi-disciplinary approach to writing and creating. But mainly we're about the fun of wordplay and the many different and interesting ways young people can use the written/ spoken/ performed word to find their unique voices.

How do you pick the instructors?

Throughout YouthWrite's history, we have prided ourselves on the calibre of our fine instructors. Instructors are invited to teach at YouthWrite because of their ability to connect and work well with young people. We seek out established author/illustrators/playwrights who are interested in mentoring youth. Many also have a background in teaching.

Where does YouthWrite happen?

Our camps take place several times a year. We offer a one-day program in partnership with the Pure Spec Festival in Edmonton; we also partner with the Bennett Centre and Edmonton Public Schools to facilitate their spring writers' camps. Our Winter WordPlay weekend camp takes place at the end of each January at the Bennett Centre in Edmonton. Our summer camps take place at Camp Chief Hector near Canmore and again in Edmonton at the Bennett Centre.

What kinds of writing are supported by your program?

We offer courses in fiction, poetry, non-fiction, journalism, photojournalism, ranting for change, 3-D character creation and sculpture, found art/found poetry, poetry and performance, poetry to song, body percussion, movement and words, yoga breathing and laughter and words, improv to script, TheatreSports and writing, screenwriting, playwriting, spoken word and hip hop poetry, clowning and writing, comedy writing, writing for radio, cartooning/ comics/ graphic novels, illustration, bookmaking, character creation and character voice, romance fiction, mystery fiction, SF and fantasy writing, graffiti and street art/poetry, storytelling, songwriting, and writing for video games, among others.

Our courses may focus on artistic disciplines youth may never have tried before, but in taking the risk to try something new, young writers may learn something amazing about themselves!

The kids who attend YouthWrite get very attached to the program and to each other. How do you support this?

We maintain a web and Facebook presence. We invite YouthWriters to stay in touch via social media and we listen to their requests for more opportunities to get involved with YouthWrite, such as our recent YouthWrite Spooktacular Halloween Cabaret and Silent Auction.

How can kids and parents find out more about YouthWrite?

They can visit our Facebook page or our YouthWrite website or be in touch via e-mail ( or follow us on Twitter

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

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Kim Firmston

Kim Firmston is a writer and creative writing instructor in Calgary. Her teen novels Schizo and Hook Up were Canadian Children's Book Centre Best Bet Selections. Her short story "Life Before War" was shortlisted for the 2008 CBC Literary Awards. Her most recent novel for teens is Touch, about a teenage hacker with a troubled family life.

Go to Kim Firmston’s Author Page