Young writers polishing their craft at SFA's Barrio Writers camp

NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - For many teenagers summers are spent sleeping late, playing video games and just hanging out with friends. Then there are those anxious to write.

East Texas News visited a unique camp called Barrio Writers.

If you were to eavesdrop on a conversation between teenage Barrio Writers you might hear something like this.

"I never thought I would get published at all," said Fariha Sultana, a writer.

"Why not?" asked Kaitlin Hofermetz, a writer.

"You know, I never … the idea of entering my work to a magazine and then like having it published never occurred to me," Sultana said.

After a week at Barrio Writers, the possibility became a reality. The teens learned what they enjoy putting down on paper may actually make a difference in this world.

"Barrio is a Spanish word that the literal translation is neighborhood, but the broader interpretation means community," said Heather Olsen Beal, the founder of the Nacogdoches Chapter of Barrio Writers. And so it's the notion that we're youth and adults working together to build a community of writers."

By week's end, writing advisors hope to empower the students in grades six through 12 to advocate for change in their communities via their writing.

"We need to help those who need guidance through the dark," one student said.

Students are encouraged to read what they've written from a prompt. Advisors ignore faulty punctuation and sentence structure. Instead they critique the written message.

"That is awesome," one teacher said.

For most students creative writing is a hobby.

"I like to write a lot, especially poetry," said Tony Robertson, a writer. I like to write about stuff that makes me think."

Briann Allen, another writer at the camp, said her creativity comes from imagination.

Briann Allen's creativity comes from

The 17 year old Central Heights student is often inspired by her drawings.

"A lot of times the pictures come before the words," Allen said.

The fantasy/sci-fi stories, so popular with readers, come next.

Lufkin High School student Cy Murphy has a pretty matter-of-fact reason for attending Barrio Writers.

"There's an opportunity to be published and it's going to look good on my resume," Murphy said.
No matter the incentive, the bottom line for Barrio Writers is to guide the students on content and expression so their creative juices continue to flow.

You may want to remember this name - Kaitlin Hofermetz of Martinsville, Texas.

"I want to publish a book," Hofermetz said. I want to be a famous author when I grow up."

A public reading of the students' work will be Saturday at 5 p.m. in the Early Childhood Research Center. Then there's an opportunity to have their work published, along with Barrio Writers across the state. SFA Press began publishing the Yearly Barrio Writers anthologies last year.

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