It was a warm September evening, with heavy winds being the only sign that summer was coming to a close. As smiling Inkers returned to the Imaginarium with their families, this night felt different than the time they had spent here during summer. Far from the nervous excitement that comes with the first day of camp, the energy in the room was pure celebration. Now, seeing their anthology freshly printed for the first time, every camper radiated the confidence that comes with being a published author.
Year four of 916 Ink’s “Amplify!” Summer Camps had so many youth authors we needed TWO anthologies to fit them all. At over 300 pages, Book of Legends: The Magic Gherkin and the Blazing Blue Fire features writing from our 3-5 grade students. Our 6-8 graders chose the title Secrets for their book, which was equally impressive 250 pages. This year’s Amplify featured five, week-long sessions held throughout July and August. In 2019 we were able to host a record 150 students – nearly triple the number from the previous year – thanks to continuing support from the California Arts Council’s Youth Arts Action grant and a first time grant from the RCA Community Fund. We were amazed at the demand for this program from the community, and without the support of these organizations would never have been able to expand our programs so extensively.
While we’ve always invited 3-5 grade students to experience the magic of Amplify, there was another reason this year was special. For two of our week-long sessions, we were able to open up the Imaginarium to 6-8 graders, allowing even more children from the community the opportunity to craft their own stories. Our Wordslingers and dedicated volunteers spent the hot summer weeks with these young authors, helping them build their confidence as writers and perfect the pieces they’ve chosen for their book. Only five short weeks after the last session ended, the publications were back from the printer, and it was time for one of our favorite moments: The book release party.
As the night began, the Imaginarium filled with authors and guests, mingling before the main event. Friends were reuniting, authors were signing copies of their book, and several brave writers were preparing to read a selection for the standing-room-only crowd. When it was time to begin, 916 Ink staff quieted the room, calling up the first young author to read aloud to the audience. When a child steps up to the microphone and begins to speak, the whole room focuses on them. Our paparazzo snaps away as they read, and proud parents film the moment on their phones. The night is all about celebrating these authors, and when they finish their piece the room bursts into applause. You can see the joy in their face as they skip back to their seats, a new self-confidence cemented in their minds with the knowledge that they are writers, published authors, and capable of extraordinary things.