Writers' Community and Mentorship Program

Growing as a writer — by helping writers grow.

Writers’ Community and Mentorship Project (CAMP) is an innovative continuing education program that provides both community-oriented study and service learning opportunities to adults interested in creative writing. Via classes, workshops, readings, informal programs, mentoring, and professional development activities, CAMP gives writers the resources they need to build their practice, hone their craft, and achieve their writerly goals. Simultaneously, CAMP writers dedicate themselves to building a vital artistic community rooted in the principles of collaboration, interdisciplinarity, and the mutual support that only writers and readers can lend to each other.

The late Jack Myers, former Director of Creative Writing at Southern Methodist University, designed CAMP while serving as President of the Board of Trustees of The Writer’s Garret. His concern centered on the number of talented poets and writers in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex who were unable to pursue formal training in creative writing because they lacked the necessary funds, had no access to opportunities, or were constrained by other demands on their time.

How does Writers’ CAMP work?

In lieu of formal enrollment in a creative writing program at a college or university, CAMP writers participate in a flexible, self-directed, self-paced program of study, creation, and service.  Each “semester,” CAMP writers complete a set of curriculum requirements that are designed with the demands of daily existence (careers, family obligations, etc.) in mind. CAMP participants may either pay for their study fully through traditional means (tuition) or by supplementing their tuition through participation in the CAMP Work Exchange program. Work Exchange positions are equivalent to volunteer activities at The Writer’s Garret. Work Exchange positions thus encompass duties and responsibilities as different as the writers who participate in the program itself, from helping the organization administer and staff its events to providing instruction and mentorship to young people via its Writers in Neighborhoods and Schools (WINS) initiative. The public service component afforded by CAMP’s Work Exchange initiative equally builds the next generation of readers and writers while cultivating a sense of volunteerism and community, both central to any serious artistic practice.

Writers may enter CAMP at two possible levels: Artist Study or Professional Study. Both levels are non-credit, but the expected level of work intends to challenge the writer as would be expected in a for-credit creative writing institution. Applicants are evaluated by an Application Review Committee to determine how and where each writer might fit within the program and the CAMP community as a whole. Once in the program, CAMPers are expected to attend an orientation, meet with their CAMP Counselor, and stay current with their involvement.

Program Levels

Artist Level of Study
At the Artist Level, training begins with an orientation session, followed by “The Elements of Creative Writing,” a class focused on developing the writing practice and learning (or re-familiarizing with) the essential qualities of all literary expression, regardless of genre, and the basics of participation in a literary community. Thus, writers from diverse backgrounds and levels are all brought together to learn the common vocabulary and techniques for improving their craft and teaching it to others.

From “The Elements of Creative Writing”, writers then move on to study within the genre or genres in which they have chosen to concentrate. Each genre “track” follows its own course of study and progresses from beginner to intermediate and advanced studies. At the same time, writers work outside the classroom or workshop, fully rounding out their literary education by attending readings and informal literary programs, working with CAMP mentors, and reaching professional development milestones (e.g., submitting their work to literary periodicals).

CAMP students (a.k.a. “CAMPers”) have studied with writers such as Galway Kinnell, Kaye Gibbons, Albert Goldbarth, Benjamin Alire Saenz, Al Young, Li-Young Lee, Jimmy Santiago Baca, Jewelle Gomez, Naomi Shihab Nye, the late Jack Myers, Victoria Redel, Gerald Stern, John Phillip Santos, Allison Hedge Coke, Mark Doty, Sydney Lea, Robert Olen Butler, Tim Seibles, and many others.

Professional Level of Study
CAMP writers admitted at the Professional Level have typically completed formal studies in creative writing (e.g., a BFA), have some record of publication within their chosen genre or genres, and/or have completed the “Artist Level” of Writers’ CAMP. Advanced students must also show a readiness and ability to serve as a mentor to other CAMP writers. CAMP writers studying at the Professional Level are therefore expected to serve as “student-teachers” and can receive up to three years worth of mentoring in 1-6 month increments with an established writer. Past mentors have included Paul Christensen, Victoria Redel, Allison Hedge Coke, Cristina Henriquez, Joe Milazzo, Kristin van Namen, and others.

Interested in Joining CAMP?

With the Writer’s Community and Mentorship Program, you can immerse yourself in classes and workshops while gaining valuable mentorship opportunities and learning how to share your new writing skills with others.