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OKCU English Department hosts 2nd annual summer camp for high school writers


by Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter

OKLAHOMA CITY – The English Department at Oklahoma City University will host the second annual Smokewood Institute for Young Writers this summer. It is an intensive two-week program of writing workshops, craft sessions, creative readings and a culminating anthology of student work. 

The program will run from July 9 through 22 on the OKCU campus at NW 23rd and Blackwelder.

English professors Rob Roensch and Karen Schiler will guide students through a curriculum with a complete introduction to creative writing.

Beyond the classroom, students will spend time participating in creative outings. They will join in partner programs on campus and around the city, including the Oklahoma City Museum of Art and the Oklahoma History Center.

Oklahoma City resident and mass communications major Zoe Travers said that her experience last year in the Smokewood Institute as a high school senior prepared her for college.

“Taking a college course that is condensed to fit into a two-week schedule involves a lot of hard work, but the experience of living in a dorm and being with hard-working people helps keep you grounded,” Travers said. “Not only do you get to experience the workload of college and the academic atmosphere, but you also get a lot of camaraderie with your peers, just like college.”

Serious students working in “any genre, of varying styles,” are welcome.

Eligibility requires the completion of the students’ sophomore year of high school. Certain test scores and GPA levels may be required. The deadline for scholarship consideration has been extended to April 28.

Roensch has an MFA in creative writing from Cornell University, and he has experience teaching at the high school and college levels. His short story collection, “The Wildflowers of Baltimore,” won the International Scott Prize for Short Stories in 2012.

“Our goal is to offer an exclusive creative writing summer camp to students who might otherwise head out of state,” said Roensch.

“The Smokewood Institute should appeal to those high school students who are interested in a more challenging creative writing experience including participating in workshops, attending lectures and readings, and producing an anthology of student work. Smokewood is a chance for the best local young creative writers to come together and benefit from each others’ work.

Roensch added. “We are looking for writers who will draw from the rich experience and constructive feedback we can provide.”

With a doctorate in composition and rhetoric, Schiler worked as the editor of The Southern California Anthology.  She directed the Drew University Ranger Writers program for college students interested in writing novels, poetry and screenplays.

“The institute provides an opportunity for promising high school students to further explore their art through a challenging, stimulating camp experience,” Schiler said “We are excited to see what they can make with words.

The institute is named after Elaine Smokewood, a popular OKCU English professor who was diagnosed with a neurological disease and passed away in 2011.  Despite losing the ability to talk, Smokewood taught classes via remote teaching technology during the last couple of years of her life.

“We see OCU as a great place to host the program since we will be able to integrate historical and artistic experiences in Oklahoma City along with college-level instruction and feedback,” Roensch said. “The two-week program will also confer college credit.”

Forms can be submitted by mail to: OCU English Department, Attn: Smokewood Institute, 2501 N Blackwelder, Oklahoma City, OK 73106.

For more information, visit the program webpage at or contact Schiler at [email protected].

Rob Roensch. Photo provided.
Rob Roensch. Photo provided.
Karen Schiler. Photo provided.
Karen Schiler. Photo provided.
Zoe Travers. Photo provided.
Zoe Travers. Photo provided.
Elaine Smokewood. Photo provided.
Elaine Smokewood. Photo provided.

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