“They say that every adventure starts with a step. A singular footfall, and you’re on your way, ready to take on the world. I disagree. I believe that an adventure begins with the decision to take one, and that this is not easy, but the single most difficult part of the entire journey.” — Margo, Age 14
On August 15th, seven young writers, ages 14-16, took to the woods and waters of western Maine to deepen their craft by exploring their writing—and the wilderness—in a new way.
The seven-day canoeing and rock climbing course, part of a partnership between Hurricane Island Outward Bound School (HIOBS) and The Telling Room, was specifically designed to provide these young writers with team and leadership development skills, traditional Outward Bound-based expeditionary skills, and the opportunity to get to know fellow writers and peers.
The heart of the Outward Bound experience is learning by doing. Groups are placed in an unfamiliar environment, with the necessary tools for solving problems, and then challenged with a goal that requires group cooperation and teamwork. This experience gives students the chance to expand their communication, problem-solving, and leadership skills in an exciting outdoor environment.
What these students found is that whether searching for the right word or perfect phrase, a handhold, or the next cairn, every journey on the page and the trail begins with the same deliberate intention: the willingness to strike out on an adventure and walk into the unknown.
Accompanied by Telling Room Teaching Artist Jenny O’Connell and HIOBS course instructors Dave Menges and Erin Cunningham (with support from Course Director Anna Parker), these writers found connection, challenge, and growth within their writing and in the wide world around them.
O’Connell noted that it was a week of inspiration and adventure: “Summoning the grit to paddle ourselves through a rainstorm or pull ourselves up a rock wall gave us the courage to reach for new depths with our writing, and the friendships we made on course created a safe space to share it all.”
She added that highlights included bald eagles, misty mountain sunsets, sharing writing around the campfire, loon song, group laughter, glow-in-the-dark ukulele concerts, and sleeping out on the beach under a blanket of stars.
“Every single one of us experienced growth in some way,” said O’Connell, “and we all emerged a little closer to who we really are.”
We invite you to read excerpts of their work below and share some of the highlights from their journey. In addition, each writing sample can be viewed in its entirety on The Telling Room website here.
Nature. The earth’s own chapter in the book of life. An ancient text in a language too few still understand. It is too long a volume for any one man to read but if you let her, Mother Nature will read it aloud. I hear a page in her voice in the rustle of leaves, in the forlorn cry of a loon, in the splashing sound of lake meeting land in an embrace. In the chatter of squirrels and the cawing of crows, footnotes are added until the conclusion is reached as night and silence fall on the wild world, a lesson having been aptly given to anyone with the patience to Listen. — Daniel, Age 16 The heat stains the air In itself a warming warning Wisps and tendrils Flaming fingers reaching Reaching towards more Towards where the smoke Taunts its deal with the wind It hisses in frustration, It crackles in triumph As it both grows and withers Grows and withers The fingers extend from the palm Where the embers glow As if inhabited by miniature puppeteers Playing with fire It’s a dangerous hand Tempting and teasing Beautifully burning Not one to hold But one to love all the same — Margaret, Age 14 A jolly group Shall travel far, Through a land of trees, And wishing stars. With friends of feathers, Scales, And skin. A helping hand, A chuckle, a giggle, A hand to swat What makes us wiggle, Or face the fears that lie within. I shall write, And I shall roam, And make sure everyone Feels at home, And welcome my newfound kin. — Bay, Age 15 An adventure doesn’t start with a step, but with a sprint, a jump, a leap into the Unknown. To embrace it as a friend, for that's what it is, what it always has been. Take that leap. Befriend fear, and dance with risk. Learn everything there is to know, and feel happy with yourself, not because you’re perfect, but because nothing is. Take that beautiful, loud, clumsy leap and begin your adventure. You won't regret it. — Margo, Age 14
Founded in 1964, Hurricane Island Outward Bound School is a non-profit educational organization that serves people of all ages and backgrounds through wilderness expeditions in Maine, Florida, the Bahamas, and Central and South America. As one of 11 independent Outward Bound Schools in the U.S., HIOBS represents one of the top educational brands in the nation focusing on character development, leadership, and service.
The Telling Room is a literary arts education nonprofit whose mission is to empower youth through writing and share their voices with the world. As a literary arts education organization focused on young writers ages 6 to 18, The Telling Room seeks to build confidence, strengthen literacy skills, and provide real audiences for its students. The Telling Room believes that the power of creative expression can change communities and prepare youth for success both now and in the future.