The setting for my first book, Camp Lenape (A Kahale and Claude Mystery, Book 1), was a summer camp about as quirky and outdated as its camp director.
When I first toured the place in 2016, I was shown a beautiful estate upon which was built years ago a baseball camp for boys that eventually evolved into something far more inclusive. Yet, the campgrounds consisted of an odd assortment of ancient and not exactly new equipment and facilities.
- Sports fields and tennis courts way too small to be regulation size or of much use to even the kids they were designed for.
- Two log cabins that served as changing facilities for the kids
- An open fitness center built by the director’s father sometime in the fifties,
- A baseball training tool that looked more like wiffle balls attached to a waist-height zip line
- An obstacle course
- A bathwater temperature pool with way too much chlorine
- A tennis court to small for even kids to play on
- And several other randomly placed buildings and aging equipment that hadn’t been used in years.
With a sweeping gesture, the camp director boasted that his father built all this, he inherited it, and one day his own daughters would take over.
As camp began, I understood more and more what the camp director meant. Maybe he was from a different time. Maybe my ten years of teaching taught me lessons this guy could never learn. He was too strict, too long-winded, and too set in his ways to be someone today’s kids would enjoy being around. Balding with a greying mustache and a toothy grin that never seemed to make it to his eyes, he seemed to pop out of nowhere, waving his finger, saying, “Don’t do that!” or “That’s not the way I would do it!”
Then there were the “secrets” told in hushed whispers amongst the staff. A version of these secrets became the starting point for the storyline that would become the basis for the first draft of Camp Lenape. Fortunately, pieces of the first draft were nixed for being much too dark to be appropriate for middle schoolers. So, I lightened it up, maintaining the same level of mystery and suspense, with just enough darkness for the main characters to inspect, and eventually overcome as they learned important lessons about teamwork and friendship.