UMSL writers, high school students look to break down borders with new summer writing camp

by | May 24, 2016

The two-week experience is a chance for young St. Louis writers to hone their skills, read each other's work and create their own literary zine.
WITS summer camp

(Photo by August Jennewein)

For the first time ever, the University of Missouri­–St. Louis’ Writers in the Schools outreach program will be offering a summer camp. Taking place over a two-week session on the UMSL campus beginning June 20, the WITS camp offers students the opportunity to work with award-winning writers and create their own literary zine, all while enhancing their writing and creative abilities.

“Our intent is to help students improve their overall writing process while having fun,” said Myrta Vida, a fiction student in the MFA in Creative Writing program at UMSL and the WITS student liaison. “No other program in the area will have the high quality, hands-on approach we do – and certainly not at this price.”

Vida has been working with WITS for several years and helped initiate the new summer camp. She said she sees this as a unique opportunity for high school students who may be struggling with their writing.

The first week of the camp, June 20 to 24, will be an open house of sorts, with each day focusing on a particular writing genre. Then, over the course of the second week (June 27 to July 1), participants will provide the content for and design their own literary zine. A graduation ceremony will conclude the program.

“The WITS summer camp is a result of a demand for something to continue the work and excitement built up during the academic year,” said the program’s founder, Mary Troy, who is a professor of English and creative writing at UMSL. “Parents, grandparents, teachers and students have all asked for it.”

Started in 2000, WITS has been working in area high schools to provide lessons, discussions and activities to young writers on a variety of topics and themes, and the program has seen a lot of success in the region.

“WITS nurtures talent, encourages creativity, builds on enthusiasm and helps keep the written arts alive,” said Troy, who is also the editor of “Natural Bridge,” UMSL’s nationally distributed literary magazine. “The high school students we work with could be future literary greats, part of the next generation of writers who inspire and delight us all.”

She added that this summer’s pilot program, which has been a long time coming, aims to bring together high school students from a wide variety of backgrounds.

“It will work best if private and public school students from across the metro area can read one another’s work,” she said. “Literature is borderless.”

Organizers note that space is limited, and registration is required by June 10. The $300 registration fee for the camp includes lunch and beverages. Payment plans, support grants and materials will be available to students in need of assistance. For further details, contact Vida at

This story was written by Liam Cassidy, a fiction student pursuing an
MFA in Creative Writing at UMSL.

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