May 2, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Twenty-five years ago, a high-school teacher and a group of self-described misfit teenagers gave birth to a tiny literary journal. It was a document, and project, seemingly as ephemeral as the cheap paper on which it was printed.

Central High School instructor David Martin created the 2-page pamphlet of writing based off the best of this class’ daily notebook entries. The pamphlet spread like wildfire around the school, and eventually, to the community. Now, a quarter century later, that humble pamphlet has become Fine Lines, a 200-plus-page quarterly journal.

The journal’s success inspired Martin to go further in the Omaha literary scene. Seventeen years ago, eight people met for four hours a day during one week at Barnes & Noble in Crossroads Mall, crafting their work in a summer camp appropriately called Fine Lines. Martin used his skills as a writing teacher to show those eight campers how to clarify their writing and play with words. He helped them develop poems, essays, and short stories.

“We’re there to get the fire going—to foster creativity,” Martin says. “We go to great lengths to help kids of all ages and all abilities.”

Those eight kids enjoyed themselves, told their friends, and brought others with them to share the experience the next year. Those people told their friends, who told others.

“It’s been a lot of word of mouth,” Martin says.

The eight-person, informal session has grown into an annual writer’s workshop attracting more than 150 people, from fourth graders to octogenarians. They gather for four hours a day during one week to talk about their creative passions. This year, the event runs from June 20 through June 24 at Milo Bail Student Center at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

Each day begins with Martin himself talking for 15 minutes about the activities. At that point, a performer, writer, or musician will talk about his or her field and how creativity comes into play in that field. That becomes the metaphor for the day’s writing.

Music, specifically, helps Martin.

“Every now and then when I’m writing and the words sort of elevate off the page…I can hear a tone,” Martin says. “When you’re really onto something and it’s really good, you can almost sing the words.”

Writing students gain the ability to expand their creativity, craft their words into publishable writings, and ignite their passions for words. But there’s also something more meaningful that most campers receive.

“It was about being around people my age who loved doing the same things I loved doing, which was telling stories,” says Emma Vinchur, a student at UNL and graduate of Elkhorn South High School.

The camaraderie Vinchur gained from fellow writers inspired her to return annually. Last year was her 10th year at Fine Lines Camp.

The students are given a chance to read in the afternoon, and, ultimately, a chance to be published in Fine Lines.

“They all made an impact on me,” Martin says. “I feel I benefited as much as them.”

The camp gives writers young and old a chance to spend a week doing what they love—putting words to paper.

“I think for me, since I am in college and I am so busy, Fine Lines grounds me and reminds me of my love for creative writing,” Vinchur says.

“It’s about the community,” Vinchur emphasizes.

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