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Young Women's Writing Workshop

Courses & Workshops

Morning Session (9 a.m.–Noon)

Fiction: How to Generate & Revise New Writing

Peter Sapira

Author Bonnie Friedman once said, "Successful writers are not the ones who write the best sentences. They are the ones who keep writing." In keeping with this sentiment, this workshop will begin each class by reading work from established writers and discussing how they employ elements of fiction such as voice, tone, plot, imagery and dialogue. We will then use these texts, as well as movies, animation, graphic novels and journaling, as jumping off points to create new stories. Through individual conferences with the instructor and group workshops, each student will have at least one of her works reviewed to assess what elements are successful and how to proceed toward a final, polished draft. The goal of this class is to give students an inspiring, effective approach for creating new writing, along with the tools to revise their own work.

Generating Fiction

Boomer Pinches

This workshop will help develop students' creative writing and storytelling skills by focusing on the art of the short story. Good writers are avid readers. With this in mind, we will read and discuss work by established writers with an eye toward understanding how the writer uses plot, character development, style, dialogue and other fictional elements to create compelling stories. Students will be given creative writing prompts to help inspire their own ideas and stories and will meet with the instructor to discuss what aspects of their work might benefit from revision. As the course progresses, students will read and provide feedback on one another's work—every story needs an audience. The goal of the class is to provide each student with valuable experience in crafting and revising her own fiction.

Writing Young Adult Fiction

Terra McVoy

During this two-week course, we will focus on both micro and macro elements of young adult writing. We'll look at and discuss examples that help show the difference between writing that's for teens, versus writing that's actually for adults but happens to have a teen protagonist. We'll also work on story ideas, world building (for fantasy novels, for example), character development, plotting, getting off to a strong start, writing authentic dialogue, dealing with the romantic element, what makes a good ending and what to do if you get stuck. The first week will be writing-heavy, with lots of interactive discussions and exercises, while the second week will focus on identifying what's working in one piece from each writer, and discussing where it might go next. The goal of this course is to equip writers with the necessary tools to construct a solid story for young adults, to generate ideas for one or more pieces and to inspire continued writing and revising far beyond the course.

i Fiction: Write, revise, and create a writing identity

Jennifer Jacobson

In this two-week session, we will write and revise our stories in a supportive community. The first week is designed to tap the muse and inspire new work through a series of writing exercises in-class and around Northampton. We will read short published work to deepen our understanding of scene, point of view, character, setting and dialogue. In week two, we will focus on revision. Through group discussions and an individual instructor conference, we will consider the strengths and weaknesses of the work we produce and identify revision strategies. Students will leave this course with lots of ways to generate new writing as well as tactics to move their work to the next level.

Fiction: The Great Page

Rachel B. Glaser

In this class of reading, writing and editing, new styles will be explored and discovered. Writers will generate pieces based on nontraditional writing prompts. In-class writing will get us thinking spontaneously. We will learn from reading Miranda July, Donald Barthelme, Joy Williams, James Tate and many other innovative minds. Besides discussing character, plot, setting, tone and pace, we will examine works at the sentence level and see what makes them move. Writers will have the opportunity to workshop one of their pieces with the class. The workshop will be a friendly environment, a forum for ideas and the best kind of collaboration. Through good work and revision, writers will leave the class with at least one finished piece, plus much newfound confidence.

Writing Young Adult Fiction

Morgan Sheehan

In this two-week course we will focus on the elements of fiction that make us love what we read. We will develop dynamic, passionate main characters who drive the plot through their own actions—plots that challenge our main characters and sweep the reader breathlessly through the story. We will work on world building, an essential element of fantasy and science fiction and helpful to all genres. We will create multidimensional villains who are smart and ruthless enough to bring out the best in our heroes and possibly even wring some sympathy from our readers. The first week we will generate material and look at excellent examples from modern and classic authors of YA fiction. The second week we will workshop the manuscripts to bring out the best in our peers' work. The goal of this course is to give writers the tools they need to be successful in writing for young adults and to have students leave with a collection of shorter works and one longer piece.

Creative Buffet—The Great Creative Mash Up

Marlee Stempleman

Choosing between things you love is no easy feat, and this course won't require you to do so, as it offers a little bit of everything. Imagine a great mash up between Drake, Taylor Swift and Lil' Wayne: epic. This creative writing course will ask you to explore your creative self and creative writing by drawing from numerous genres: documentary, fiction, poetry, music and history. You will examine The Central Park Five and Louder Than a Bombdocumentaries, and then move to erasing the flash fiction of "famous" authors and replacing them with our own. You will utilize all of these creative means to explore social topics, yourself and the world around you, ultimately creating a body of work that could conceivably make us forget about the life and death of malls and Biggie Smalls.

Afternoon Session (1–4 p.m.)


Phil O'Donoghue

In this class students will have the opportunity to write and develop their own original scripts. Starting with writing prompts, students will learn how playwrights nurture their ideas into fully realized theatrical experiences. Students will have the opportunity to see and read scenes from famous plays and then take their own ideas and put them into action. We will constantly stress that theater is to be seen, and thus, students will integrate all facets of theatre—acting, lighting, set design and costume design—into their scripts. All scripts will be read, discussed, reworked and performed. The goal is to have students not only develop an appreciation of dialogue, but also to leave the workshop with a script they further develop and perform.


Maureen Buchanan Jones

What is poetry? Is a song lyric a poem? Is a grocery list? Is a sonnet better poetry than spoken word? Are there limits to who can be a poet? Does poetry have rules? What happens if a writer breaks those rules? This course will discuss these questions and more. We will explore both traditional and nontraditional poetic forms and examine how poetic elements combine to create successful poetry. We will experiment through our own writing generated and shared in class. The class will also analyze poetry from the sonnet to spoken word as a way to understand how meaning is shaped. We will learn while we write and while we search through others' writing. We will learn while we have fun.

Writing In Response To Art

Emily Pettit

Often it is a writer's encounter with art, of various mediums, that pushes a writer to write something. Examples include writing in response to painting, photography, dance, television, film or music. In this class we will look at what listening, looking at and reading things might make one write. We will look at Gertrude Stein's prose portraits of artists such as Picasso and Matisse. We will read poems that use television and film to inspire their imagery. We will let ourselves encounter inspiration from Smith's extraordinary library and art museum. The Smith campus is home to both Sylvia Plath's papers and artwork by Edouard Vuillard. We will listen to mash-ups of poems and pop songs. We will talk about the various things we might mean when we say "pop." Poetry will point us toward things that are popular and things that are uncertain. We will write things. We will make things in response to people making things.

Memoir Workshop: The Artifice of Truth

Ben Mitchell

Five of the ten New York Times best-selling books of nonfiction in 2012 were autobiographical. Reality shows top the TV Guide charts every year. In this era of 24/7 marketing and spin, people are deeply hungry for something true, some taste of the authentic. This is the job of the writer in the 21st century, to tell the truth in a way that feeds the great human need for authenticity. Memoir is the art of sifting this truth from the malaise of an unreliable memory. In this workshop, we will explore ways to manage life memories as material for writing. We will zero in on how to discover, expand and revise the important moments, and look at ways to structure those moments, so they compel as well as retell. Each session will begin by reading a selection from a literary memoir as a model, then we will write from a specific prompt and workshop the results as a community. Each student will need a large, blank notebook and a comfortable pen.

Memoir Workshop: Who Are You?

John Maradik

In this two-week memoir workshop you will learn how to focus your life's stories, giving them voice and purpose. Through prompts and self-inquiry you will launch an investigation into your memories, your relationships, your senses, your feelings, and your dreams. You will draw from the totality of your being to understand what makes you unique and how best to share it. For inspiration, we will read from an array of memoirs and biographies. We will discuss what we admire about these texts, and how you can make use of it in your own writing. Each student will workshop once, refining a piece or conglomeration of pieces in a kind and open environment.

Writing Poetry

Luke Bloomfield

When something comes from "out of the blue," what does that actually mean? Where is the blue, and how do we get there? Or, how can we bring the blue to us? In this workshop our goal is to write poems that challenge us to be surprised by our own choices. We will think about, talk about, read and write poems that take strange turns. Unexpected movement—at times, spontaneous—will be our central concern. If we are building a machine, our tools will be humor, absurdity and wonder. We won't worry about the point, as in "what's the point," when we write our poems, because only after we've built our machine will we decide how it works.

Intro to Screenwriting

Sam Harper

In this course, students immerse themselves in all aspects of visual storytelling, including the development of concept, theme, character, dialogue and dramatic structure. Using film, produced screenplays and short texts as instructional tools, students will write (and rewrite!) the first act of a screenplay and an outline for acts two and three. During the first week, we’ll familiarize students with the fundamentals of screenwriting using writing prompts that relate to their stories. The second week will be devoted to workshopping the first act and outline. The goal is that students emerge with a thoughtful, self-reflective piece of writing that's also a blueprint for the film they've always wanted to see.