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Summer writing project spurs young minds
write workshp pic
Turlocker Julie Thompson and her daughter Molly, 8, enjoy reading an anthology written by students of the Great Valley Writing Project at California State University, Stanislaus. The program is held every summer for two weeks of fun, thought-provoking, exploration into the world of writing. - photo by JONATHAN MCCORKELL / The Journal

Modesto mother Julie Nomof has observed her children grow from already superior writers to extraordinary writers, something she whole-heartedly attributes to the role of the Great Valley Writing Project’s Young Writers Workshop in her children’s educational experiences.

For the past four summers her eldest child Venice, now 14, has spent two weeks exploring and refining her scholarly writing ability through the project. For Nomof’s youngest child Kade, 11, the project has allowed him to display his sense of humor and zest for life.

The project is held at California State University Stanislaus and it has been taught by Director Kaye Osborn for the past 21 summers. Osborn is a retired teacher from Lakewood Elementary in Modesto.  Osborn and fellow workshop teacher Casey Giffen use a cornucopia of learning techniques to reach eager young writers in grades 3-8.

Acronyms like BARF AND SPIT (Brainstorm Audience Reason Format and Sparkle Pizzazz Interest Technical) can go a long way for kids and empowering their memorization and imagination.

“I also encourage them to expand their vocabulary using $1 words instead of 1 cent words. So instead of ‘said’ you could write ‘he shouted angrily’,” said Osborn.

Students are introduced to immersion writing, creative writing and poetry. Writing topics range from simple objects like a pencil or a shoe to descriptions of surroundings or weather.

“I love creative writing and immersion—putting yourself in nature and see where it takes you,” explained Venice.

The workshop itself is conducted in a grade-free, relaxed and fun atmosphere. Only compliments and constructive encouragement are on the menu.

Turlock parent Julie Thompson has relished her daughter Molly’s participation in the program.

“Molly has always enjoyed writing and this is a good opportunity for her to grow as a writer. I’ve definitely seen improvement in her writing. I think before she was writing while she was worried to make a mistake but now it is good to see her letting her imagination go,” said Thompson.

Osborn explained that many project students go on to set the standards in their classrooms during the school year.

The culmination of the project is an anthology of student writings full of superb writing.

Before this summer’s class concluded on Friday, Osborn asked the students who was going to return next summer and every single student emphatically raised their hand in the air. Truly a testament to the project’s success, after all, it isn’t everyday that an entire class of students want to come back.

For the Turlock Journal a future reporter may be learning the most important aspect of writing. Marcus Howley, a 4th grader from Turlock, wrote “writing is like a time capsule it can go into the future.”

For more information on the Great Valley Writing Project and the Young Writers Workshop, visit www or call 667-3490.

To contact Jonathan McCorkell, e-mail jmccorkell@turlockjournal or call 634-9141 ext. 2015.