Helen Metella's Review of YouthWrite Peak I Experience 2018

 Ages 12-14: July 1-6, 2018 at Kamp Kiwanis, Bragg Creek, AB


A snapshot of Peak I, YouthWrite 2018

By Helen Metella, Instructor, Peak I

So many lucky dogs. They’ve spilled from vehicles to dash around the common as sleeping bags, clothes, instruments, writing and drawing supplies are unloaded at Kamp Kiwanis’s main lodge. Their demeanor exactly mirrors that of the countless four-legged pets who came with: wide grins, excited chattering, quick pecks masquerading as fond goodbye kisses.

That was my first impression of my first season at YouthWrite’s 2018 Peak 1 Experience, during Sunday afternoon registration. These 12-to-14 year-olds were such lucky dogs! What I would have given to have had a camp like this at their age, where writing, inventing, or just imagining is the prime focus of every hour.

My envy never abated, either. Even before breakfast, some campers brought pens and paper to jot down thoughts in the dining area, mining quiet moments to really consider what they were thinking about, and why. What a luxury, to have free time to muse.

Rain or shine, outside on the porch, campers pulled drums in a big circle around Trevor Nugent-Smith and learned to pound out a rhythmic language as they strengthened the impact of words with primal beats. Out in the forest, Anna Marie Sewell had campers walking barefoot to attach their minds to their environment, and to perhaps catch a glimpse of elk. Inside, published authors Jacquie Guest and Joseph Simons shared their private techniques for jump-starting stories.

Close to lunch, I could hear campers ask penetrating questions about the characters they were inventing in Aaron Coates’ improv class. After lunch — always a surprise presentation, always a lot of food — artist Spyder Yardley-Jones shared a trade secret about the power of curved cross-hatching with an aspiring graphic novelist, during the Blue Pencil Café. (That night, in East Hope, during the same few hours that instructors whiled away playing guitar and trading war stories, I watched Spyder produce commissioned artwork for admiring campers, on T-shirt after T-shirt.)

In late-day classes, delicious tidbits of information kept reinforcing the whole, like layers of pastry: How to write a song. How to make an iPhone mini-documentary, right now, today! How to maintain your personal integrity and not become a troll on social media. How to understand and coax immigrants’ stories. How to interview for truth as a journalist.

And the nights! Pure inspiration for budding writers, actors and directors, as one camp director and eight Supers, each with a super-human command of multiple arts, staged a brand-new, costumed, laugh-out-loud Fringe-like play on a different theme, each night at the BEEG Show. Followed by unusual bed-time stories, movies, campfires and talent shows, all prepared with care to spark inspiring dreams.

You lucky, lucky dogs. If your parents and pets knew what they were missing, they’d be clamouring to remain outside the car and join you, next year.


Prepare your application documents - Info Sheet



For ages 8-11, please see our River Valley Daycamp Experience 2018


For ages 15-19, please see our Peak II Experience 2018

 Never been to Kamp Kiwanis? Visit this page for the address and a link to Google Maps.


Cost: $625  


(Price includes: tuition, supplies, meals, snacks, accommodation, and entertainment.)


Our line-up of fabulous instructors!


 Ghada Alatrash is a Syrian-Canadian doctoral candidate, sessional instructor and   research assistant in Educational Research at the Werklund School of Education at the   University of Calgary. Her current research speaks to the lived experience of the Syrian   Diaspora in Canada. She is the author of Stripped to the Bone:  Portraitist of Syrian   Women and she has recently been invited to speak on her book as a TEDx speaker.   She has an MA in English Literature from the University of Oklahoma. She has also been profiled in several media including CBCPBSBBCAljazeera,and Gulf  News, among others. In this course, we will begin by engaging readings of short stories and poetry as a vehicle to travel into our worlds of writing. Our plan is to travel as deep as we can during this week, and to visit spaces that are beyond borders and boundaries. Our end goal is to collectively build our narratives in accordance with rules defined and written by our hearts and minds.


Beyond Borders and Boundaries - We'll begin with engaging readings of short stories and poetry as a vehicle to travel into our worlds of writing. Our plan is to travel as deep as we can during this week, and to visit spaces that are beyond borders and boundaries.  Our end goal is to collectively build our narratives in accordance with rules defined and written by our hearts and minds.  



Aaron Coates is a director, writer, actor, and the Associate Artistic Director of Cowtown Opera.  He studied acting at Mount Royal University and at École Philippe Gaulier in Paris. His writing credits include: Pratfall, The Pants, On a Twitch, The End of the Rope (shortlisted for the Writers Guild of Alberta Award for Drama), and the libretto for the opera Annie Davidson. Aaron spent nine years with Dirty Laundry, Calgary’s improvised soap opera, where he directed over 150 episodes.

Eye Say - Discover characters by taking a walk in their shoes! We’ll improvise to find out what makes someone tick and then write from that experience. Where’s the story going to go? You’ll be in charge of it. Through the creation of an improvised soap opera, we’ll dream up a vibrant group of characters and take them on a rollicking adventure.

Come aboard the cruise ship “Glitzenglammer”! Sail the ocean, see the sights, and get sucked into a soap opera. Come mingle with high-maintenance passengers, royalty, stern captains, shady social directors, rough-and-tumble crew members, and stowaways! Will it be high spirits or cabin fever? What are the secrets that everyone is harbouring? Will the ship arrive at its final destination?

Jacqueline Guest is an international award-winning author of twenty novels. Jacquie has stood on an iceberg, flown a kite in a hurricane, worn bedroom slippers in Parliament and   dodged hungry lions all while on the job as a writer! Her fast paced-novels have topics that range from deadly video games to comic book superheroes and mysterious meteorites! She has over twenty years of experience working with students of all ages and has taught   reading and writing workshops across   Canada, the US and as far off as Africa. In 2017, Jacqueline was awarded the Order of Canada. Her motto: READING ROCKS!

Time Travelling Writers: Creating Stories for the Future! Is the unknown just a page waiting to be written? 
 Does your past shape your present writing?
 Can you create stories now that will live on into the future?
 Discover the secrets to writing a story that can travel through time with you! 
 WARNING- You will construct a take-home Time Capsule. 
 Bring small articles, writing samples and fun stuff to be sealed in your time capsule!


Bob Jahrig is a St.Albert-based singer/songwriter whose writing reveals his love of language, melody and a search for beauty in the human spirit and the natural world.  His debut CD, Tree Tops was released in 2002.  Bob released his second CD, Colour of the Moon in the fall of 2008.  In addition to performing at folk venues across Alberta, Bob has taught songwriting to youths for over eighteen years as an instructor with YouthWrite and as an artist in residence at public schools.  

There’s a Song In That - Explore the many sources around us, some silly and some serious, that can lead to a song.  In a supportive and nurturing environment, work together exploring the process of crafting words into meaningful songs.  While knowledge of music and ability to play an instrument are always helpful, you’ll focus on the writing craft and how words can be wrapped around a melody.   




Helen Metella has had a looooong list of fun jobs, all because she loves to play with words. That list includes record company publicist, rock music critic, radio reporter, newspaper front-page editor, magazine editor, television story editor, documentary writer and TV director—plus a few more crazy-sounding jobs, like “boat reporter,” that you’ll just have to ask her about. Helen thinks that once you learn some trade secrets about how to report and write great stories, you can put those skills to use in almost every kind of writing, whether you want to write news reports or films or hit songs.

How do I write stuff everyone WANTS to read?Learn the best ways to interview people, how to make absolutely sure that all your facts are correct, and how to write a story that doesn’t give your readers (or listeners or viewers) a chance to get bored. We’ll practise a bit of journalism, some reviewing, some scriptwriting … and maybe even some songwriting because, yup, the basic skills 

are all the same!  


Kyle Muzyka is a Cree-Métis journalist from Treaty 8. He wears many hats at CBC Edmonton but is currently a digital journalist with the web team. He enjoys writing Indigenous, music, sports and pop culture stories. He's really fun and cool and YouthWrite is excited to have him debut his creative non-fiction course!
Finding Some Gold - Using different mediums to tell stories, this journalism-focused class will give students a chance to use writing, audio, video and photo to tell unique stories from each other. Finding some gold in their classmates' stories, students will choose which medium they want to work in depending on the type of story they tell.

 Trevor Nugent-Smith has a background in visual art, but his main passion and focus have been on drums and world percussion, which have become an integral part of his life. Trevor has worked professionally as a hand drum instructor and performer for many years, 10 of which were spent with One World Drum Company in Calgary, AB. He has brought his fun and creative teaching style to thousands of children in schools and camps as well as adults in all kinds of settings. Over the years, Trevor has performed with Brazilian and West African drum  troupes, yoga and dance classes, DJs and the funk band, Freak Motif.  He now calls the West Kootenays home and is a new grade five school teacher. 


Words.Beats.Sounds - Explore rhythm and melody with drums, percussion, Boomwhackers ®, and your voice! Come weave stories and poems through layered rhythm and sound.  We will learn how to work/play together to create beats and sounds and feel how the music can inspire us as we co-create in the moment.  Our words will transform into rhythmic phrases, accented through tone, tempo and volume. Join us in this fun and creative exploration of words and rhythm!      

Pam Rocker is an atypical activist, award winning writer, speaker, and musician. Pam has always been passionate about the intersections of comedy and social change, and uses this experience to inform her digital values and social media escapades. From crafting brands and websites to writing sketches, speeches, and songs, she seeks authentic engagement inside of our ever-changing digital culture. Pam was chosen as one of the top 30 activists in Canada in THIS Magazine, was nominated as Artist of the Year in the Heart of Excellence awards, and writes/performs queer feminist ukulele comedy music. Pam is one of the Top 40 Under 40 in Avenue Magazine, a committee member of PechaKucha Calgary, and Vice-Chair of the Observer Magazine. She loves cheese popcorn, writing weird songs, and watches way too much Netflix.



There's An App For That: Writing and Storytelling In The Digital Age Social Media has evolved rapidly, and we are in contact with more people in an hour than our ancestors were during their whole lives., We are constantly thrilled and bombarded by the ways we can act, interact, and react online. We have immense freedom, can write our own rules, and find our own voice. But what do you want to say - really? How do you want to create change? Navigating the complex world of social media, where everything buzzes for our attention, is not for the faint of heart. In this fun and highly interactive class, learn about crafting your work for an online audience, social media theory, and we'll even create our own new app!



To the River, to the World!

What is the purpose of poetry? It is to connect us by language to the very soul of the world. How do we do that? We walk. We listen. We breathe. We go to the river, and we bring out hearts to share. What will we discover? The very stardust of our souls, and connections of Mitayuke Oyasin - All Our Relations.

Anna Marie Sewell, Edmonton’s 4th Poet Laureate (2011-13) writes poetry, essays, songs and stories. Recent projects include Shumka’s Ancestors&Eldersand magazine pieces in The Polyglot and Eighteen Bridges. Her new book, For the Changing Moon: Poems&Songs, arrives in September.  She blogs at prairiepomes.com is a budding orchardist and guitarist, and loves learning languages, songs and geographical trivia.



Joseph Simons loves how people's lives change over time and space. He writes historical fiction for young readers. His award-winning novel, Under a Living Sky, is about two girls on the prairie in the Great Depression. There is a mysterious sequel, long in the making, not yet in print. YouthWrite is thrilled to have Joseph join us again this summer!

Between You and Me: How Things Like Us RelateGood writing explores relationships: how do we understand and interact with ourselves and with people, and other things?  How do we relate to things in the concrete world, to things in our social worlds, to our histories and traditional ways of thinking and being?  Let’s start with a good discussion about stuff—your stuff, others' stuff, and our stuff—and then let’s write about relationships between our stuff and ourselves, between each other.  It’s all the stuff of great stories!

Loren Spector is a Calgary Visual Artist and Printmaker, whose work has been exhibited both locally and internationally.  She is an art teacher, a   reckless skier and freestyle golfer, and mom to two energetic children who keep her on her   toes. She looks forward to her time at YouthWrite as a highlight of the summer, because of   the creative young people she gets to work with there.


Identity Express - Bring your favourite words to this session, and we will bring them to life in a visual art context. In this studio class, participants will examine their own self-identity while creating aPapier-Mache Character Creation, and a Text-in-Context Painting that gets up close and personal. This is where visual art meets writing, as your words inspire mixed-media images. Bring painting clothes, a head full of ideas, and a photo or two of yourself. Oh ya, and bring that fearless imagination, too.




 Spyder Yardley-Jones was born in the dark, frozen, tropical jungle of Edmonton. For years he's been creating visual arts for solo and group shows, creating controversy in Canada and the USA. An award-winning published illustrator, Spyder has also educated billions and billions of youth in artist-in-residency programs in both public and Catholic school systems. He has been working at The Art Gallery of Alberta as an assistant art handler since paint was invented.


In This Corner - Write in any style you choose, but the catch is that you must include  these words: “in this corner.”  Next you'll translate your writing into a multi-media, three dimensional diorama. A physical corner will be provided; then you provide the  imagination and the story behind the corner!

Special Guest Presentation!

Sheri-D Wilson shares The Craft Of Life

Sheri-D Wilson was appointed the honored position of Poet Laureate of Calgary 2018—2020 (the year of perfect vision). Sheri-D is the award-winning author of eleven books, the creator of four short films, and has released four albums which combine music and poetry. She is known for her electric performance-style, making her a favourite of festivals around the world. She has read, performed & taught in festivals across Canada, USA, UK, France, Spain, Belgium, Mexico, and South Africa. In 2017, she received her Doctor of Letters—Honoris Causa from Kwantlen University, after launching, The Book of Sensations (U of C Press), and CD Dragon Rouge (poetry and music).  Awards include: The City of Calgary Arts Award and the Stephan G. Stephansson Award for Poetry. She’s frequently a guest on CBC and a long-time favourite at YouthWrite. 




And of course...

The Amazing Peak I Supers:


Elena Belyea is thrilled to be returning for her fifth summer at YouthWrite! Elena is a queer performer, producer, arts educator and graduate of the University of Alberta and the National Theatre School of Canada’s Playwriting program. She is founding Artistic Director of Tiny Bear Jaws, a little theatre company with teeth, and a co-founder of the Common Ground Arts Society’s annual Found Festival in Edmonton, a showcase of multidisciplinary arts events that take place in non-traditional venues.  Her plays have been performed across Canada and received numerous awards. Little known (but utterly unsurprising) fun fact: She's gaga for Gail!









Nick Carter is ecstatic to be given the opportunity to interrupt his retirement for another edition of YouthWrite. He is a filmmaker and writer who’s been involved with YouthWrite since 2010. Recently, Nick completed the experimental micro series, A Present for Your Present, while living in semi-isolation on an island in the Pacific Ocean and is currently in development on a range of other projects in Toronto. Nick respects the custom of saying flattering things about Gail in this space. Gail is nice.






 \Anna Cooley is a film writer-producer-director based in Calgary. Her multi-award winning feature documentary A Sauropod Abroad is currently making its way around the international festival circuit. Her short narrative film Sleepwalker, made with the support YouthWrite and its talented supervisors, premiered in February 2017. Her production company Erratic Pictures creates projects that explore different styles of storytelling through film, collaborating with artists in many disciplines and experimenting with new technologies like virtual reality. Recently, Anna developed and taught the Calgary Society of Independent Filmmakers’ 2017 Spring Break Movie Camp, a one-week intensive film lab for teens. She is thrilled to be back at YouthWrite for her 7th year as a Super and to be working with beloved Gail!



Cole Feth, who considers himself to be Gail’s most prized university student, is a recent recruit to the YouthWrite team. As such, he asks you be gentle, kind and, of course, play as many practical jokes on him as possible. Cole asks that you do not, however, use his love for sports against him as he has recently discovered he was merely a nerd trapped in an athlete's body. He loves to write, tell jokes (almost entirely of the sarcastic nature) and is really hoping to make your experience at YouthWrite a memorable one.  After three times as Supervisor, he now knows how much he cherishes Gail.









Jennifer Hill has been traveling the world in search of adventure near and far, from teaching snowboarding in New Zealand to fighting forest fires in Northern Alberta. She has visited the great NWT and worked for the ice roads as well as led bike tours for an active travel company all over Canada. Jen currently attends the University of Alberta, studying to be a teacher. Her adventurous spirit never stops: she looks forward to inspiring others to find their own adventures wherever they may be, including in their writing! Jen is excited for YouthWrite and to work with the goddess Gail.










Miranda Martini is a musician and writer based in Calgary. She studied English literature and creative writing at UBC and recently completed a master’s degree in songwriting at Bath Spa University. Her writing has appeared in several local and national publications, including Alberta Views Magazine and Reader's Digest, and her article, "Women in Charge" (2014), won a Western Magazine Award for Best Emerging Writer. She recently performed in and co-wrote music for Cheryl Foggo's play John Ware Reimagined, which will be remounted in Edmonton this fall.

Miranda attended YouthWrite as a camper from 2001 to 2005, and she's so excited to be back as a supervisor because she loves Gail the most!




Morgan Moffatt is extremely excited to be returning for her fifth year at YouthWrite! Having discovered the joy of the fine arts while attending high school, Morgan pursued a Bachelor’s of Education, minoring in fine arts, from the University of Alberta. After graduation, Morgan began her teaching career at the same school where Gail worked! She therefore loves Gail the most out of any other super. Morgan is currently calling Vancouver home, enjoying life as a substitute teacher. When she isn’t molding the minds of tomorrow, she enjoys reading, bird watching and long walks on the beach.










Peter Takach is a writer and teacher whose works have surfaced in some of the nation’s finest magazines, literary festivals, and recycling bins. Banished from his hometown for crimes against humanities, he can be found teaching high school, toiling away at his MFA in Creative Writing at UBC, or perched on driftwood staring out at great Neptune's ocean. A proud alumnus of YouthWrite and the Spoken Word Youth Choir, Peter can't wait for a third Super summer with the beautiful and talented Gail.












YouthWrite Coordinator:

Gail Sidonie Sobat  is a multi-award-winning teacher and author, with eleven books for children, teens and adults, and a number of educational and academic articles. She is the YouthWrite creator/ coordinator, an international presenter, an instructor in the professional writing program at MacEwan University and in the Faculty of Education at U of A, is The Writers' Union of Canada Regional Representative for Alberta, NWT and Nunavut, and was writer in residence with the Metro Edmonton Federation of Libraries (2015). Gail is a 2016-2017 Global News Woman of Vision and a 2017 Arts and Culture Citation Award recipient. She has moved thirty-two times in her life from Badlands to Siksika Nation Reserve to hideous suburbs to Istanbul to the Sunshine Coast to her writer’s garret in a century-old temperamental house. She adores all of her Supers equally, and loves YouthWrite madly!