Written by Maris Brail, Summer Springboard alumni
As a kid, I always loved storytelling. I remember asking for notebooks and pens and new books instead of new video games as a kid because for me those things we a million times more interesting than anything I could ever see or do on a screen. I grew up loving words, I learned to type by writing up my stories on Google Drive and took inspiration for my worlds from those that I experienced through other books. However, once I hit middle school, I felt a disconnect occur between me and language. I no longer spent my free time writing up tales I had dreamed of or reading as many books as I had before. I missed it but for some reason, I just couldn’t find time to work it into my schedule. This continued for around four years, so when making plans for Summer 2019 I decided to set aside some specific time to work on my writing.
I only typed five words into Google “creative writing Yale summer program” and the first website that popped up was Summer Springboard’s. I clicked on it and immediately knew that it would be perfect for me. I would have the opportunity to live pretty independently on one of my favorite college campuses, I would get to meet new people, and most importantly of all, I would have three hours a day for ten days to just work on my writing, and not just doing it actively improving it and learning from my peers and teacher. Needless to say, I signed up and it has been one of the best things that I have done both for myself as a writer and a person.
Every morning we would walk into this classroom with a big round table in the middle and take a seat. A prompt would be up on the board to get our creative juices flowing, and after around ten minutes of writing, we would go around the table and share what he had written during that time. Sharing writing, especially when it feels personal can be incredibly difficult it can feel like sharing a piece of you. But we each did this, first to strangers, then as we got to know each other better acquaintances, then by the end of the session friends. I personally have always struggled with sharing my work, I always worry that it may not be good enough, or other people will judge me for what I had written. I don’t think my parents have even read some of my work. But the open nature of the classroom, the intimacy of the round table, the common love of words fostered an environment where I didn’t feel so uncomfortable. In fact, it was the opposite. I loved hearing the feedback of my peers and teacher so I could improve. It was an especially good feeling when I wrote something that I was incredibly proud of and shared it. And the environment that helped my self-confidence as a writer grow made me want to sign up for the creative writing at my school, which I now take.
However, the nurturing setting the class provided me wasn’t the only thing that helped me advance, the exercises and speakers we had each provided a different lesson about writing, different ways it could be used, different forms it could take, the different styles. We listened to poetry and wrote it, watched ads to help us see how storytelling was used not just in literature but the “real world” as well, and met authors who had published their work. I felt my horizons broadening as I learned and experienced each of these things and I felt new skills develop as I took part in the program. One of my favorite openers was called “exploding a moment”. We wrote a simple sentence, mine was “I sat at the bottom of the pool” and our job was to add adjectives and descriptions to make the reader feel like they were physically there, with our character both physically and mentally.
So my broad ordinary sentence “I sat at the bottom of the pool” turned into
“I sank, like a stone in water to the cold concrete bottom of the pool. The quiet sound of nothingness was peaceful, almost eerie but I found solace in it. I was in my own secret little work, my own bubble. I stared up at the bright rays of sunlight streaming through the water refracting and dancing just like my physics teacher had taught. The under-surface of the water was so delicate it reminded me of my father’s crystal tiffany scotch glasses. The ones that looked like pieces of a deadly rainbow after he threw it at the wall filled with artwork my mother collected. Unlike those shards, it looked so untouched, glassy, and pure. This is what it must be like inside the glass enclosures you see in aquariums, I thought. Except, unlike the animals trapped in their own habitats I was free to break through my glass anytime I wanted, and come up for air.”
The paragraph above is still one of my favorite things that I have ever written, and I have taken this method with me, using it in the writing I am working on now. The creative writing program helped me so much, I grew in my abilities as a writer as well as my self-confidence, and I am so grateful I got the experience to attend Summer Springboard.
Maris Brail is one of Summer Springboard’s new marketing interns. She is in 10th grade at @gannacademy and is a member of the dance company, junior varsity soccer team, and theater. On the weekends, she volunteers and teachers swim lessons at her local pool. Maris attended the Creative writing program at Yale, and fell in love with both the stunning campus and the great community at SSB. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to her on Instagram @maris_brail.