Take a minute to imagine this: you're fourteen years old. You spend all your free time reading books. Suddenly, you find yourself sitting in a college classroom with a bunch of other people who like to read science fiction and fantasy, too. There's a philosophy professor and a college theater major sitting off to the side. A two-time World Fantasy Award winning author is over in the corner taking notes and pitching in every now and then. The girl to your left is drawing a walking plant and the guy to your right is trying to explain how you can't have an ovular-shaped planet because of gravity. Someone else is explaining how the energy force "leaking" into your world from another dimension has altered the shape of the planet, defied gravity, and encouraged the plants to evolve into sentient and mobile creatures. Sounds exhilarating, doesn't it?
These kids worked their butts off the entire time and just did a phenomenal job. I mean, create a world in one week? And then write about it? A huge challenge, and yet they seemed to enjoy it so much they didn't want to leave. One thing I really liked doing was bringing twenty "artifacts" from our house, ranging from an old Romanian medal to an Egyptian-looking statue to a jewelry box with a tiny boat in it, and giving them out on the first day. Then, as they created their worlds they had to figure out how that artifact fit in-who owned it, who made it, what was the story behind the piece. Some had a bigger challenge than others, but the next week when we sat down and they told me what their artifact was, they all had created amazing stories. All kinds of subtle motivation, ingenious solutions. It was very satisfying, and they had a lot of fun-and were happy they got to keep their artifacts afterwards.