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Amazon.com awards grant to Shared Worlds writing camp

Shared Worlds 382x255

Wofford summer program for teens encourages creativity

Shared Worlds, a science fiction/fantasy teen writing camp hosted by Wofford College, has been awarded a $15,000 grant from Amazon.com. The grant will help support the 2011 camp in the areas of guest writer invitations, scholarships for disadvantaged students and general operating expenses.

The grant represents the largest donation of any kind for Shared Worlds in its three-year history. Shared Worlds 2011 will be held July 17 through July 30, marking the camp’s fourth year of operation.

Founded in 2008 by director Jeremy L.C. Jones, an English lecturer at Wofford, Shared Worlds is a unique summer camp for rising eighth through 12th graders from across the country. It uses an innovative approach to writing fiction and realizing full creative potential, all in a safe and structured environment. During the first week of the camp, students build science fiction or fantasy worlds in groups, aided by Wofford faculty who provide useful information in areas such as government, biology and cartography. In the second week, the students fine-tune their worlds and write stories set within those worlds, receiving professional feedback from award-winning authors. Participants in this “teen think tank” also learn problem-solving and team-building skills useful for any career.

Guest instructors for the grant year of 2011 will include World Fantasy Award winner Jeff VanderMeer, assistant director of the program; Hugo Award-winning editor Ann VanderMeer, Philip K. Dick Award finalist Minister Faust, World Fantasy Award winner Ekaterina Sedia, Macmillan Writer’s Prize winner Nnedi Okorafor, and trend-setting game designer Will Hindmarch. Approximately 50 students will attend next year’s camp.

“We’re utterly thrilled and humbled by the grant. Amazon.com’s support is so important for the continued stability and growth of Shared Worlds,” says Jeff VanderMeer. “I’ve taught writing workshops all over the world for the past 20 years and I can honestly say that Shared Worlds is unique, and a very important space in which teens can develop their creativity and nurture their imaginations while also getting the necessary structure and institutional support.”

Jones agrees: “Amazon.com’s support, along with that of our other important sponsors, represents a commitment to the arts and tomorrow’s writers that can’t be understated.”

Shared Worlds visiting writers also have included New York Times bestseller Holly Black, New York Times bestseller Tobias Buckell, Nebula Award winner Michael Bishop, and critically acclaimed “young adult” authors Kathe Koja and Marly Youmans. Writers such as Ursula K. Le Guin, China Mieville and Michael Moorcock have contributed to various subsidiary efforts for the camp. Extensive media coverage for Shared Worlds has appeared in the Guardian, the Washington Post book blog, and many others.

“Shared Worlds takes a truly innovative approach to developing our next generation of great writers,” says Jon Fine, director of author and publisher relations for Amazon.com. “We look forward to the terrific new works the program’s graduates are bound to create in the future.”

Tim Schmitz, director of Wofford Summer Programs and associate professor and chair of the college’s history department, notes that “Wofford College is delighted to host Shared Worlds, and I am very pleased that Amazon.com sees promise in what the program is attempting to achieve. As an educator at the college level, it is increasingly clear to me that, in a small way, Shared Worlds provides a valuable supplement to high-school education by creating a great space for teen creativity.”

Shared Worlds is one of a diverse range of not-for-profit author and publisher groups receiving support from Amazon.com for programs dedicated to developing new voices and new books, including the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers, Lambda Literary Foundation, Clarion Foundation, Poets & Writers, The Loft, Copper Canyon Press, The Moth, Seattle Arts & Lectures, Richard Hugo House, WriteGirl, Milkweed Editions, ACT Young Playwrights Program, 826 Seattle, Voice of Witness, Open Letter, Archipelago Books, Pen American Center, Words Without Borders, the Association of Writers & Writing Programs. Girls Write Now, Asian American Writers Workshop, New York Writers Coalition, and the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers. All of these organizations share Amazon.com’s obsession with fostering the creation, discussion, and publication of new authors and new work.