Courses & Workshops
For the morning session, students will select a creative fiction course. In the afternoon, students may choose from a variety of special interest classes, which include poetry, graphic novel, memoir and the art of the profile. We will do our best to provide each student with at least one of her first choices. Once students are accepted, we will send a course preference selection sheet.
Morning sessions are from 9 to 11:50 a.m. Afternoon classes are from 1 to 4 p.m. During the weekend, students may make plans on their own or choose one of several day excursions on Saturday, July 6. Sunday will be a free day, so students may relax by Paradise Pond, explore Northampton, or use the athletic facilities.
Fiction: The Art of Creating & Revising New Writing
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 their 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.
Writing Creatively: Surfacing as Readers and Writers
We will begin by reading short stories, both classic and contemporary. We will talk about what we read, as writers, to find out how the stories work. Then we'll practice with elements like tone, imagery, pacing, structure, point of view, description, voice, and character, to name but a few. We'll talk about trusting our emerging selves, our unique experiences, our singular voices. And we will write, generating new fictions through a variety of lenses--from what we see to what we hear to what we do to what inspires us. In workshop, we will read and comment upon each other's stories, always striving for the heart of the matter - whether by expansion and/or contraction. Everyone will have at least one of their works closely read and revised for a final draft and will meet individually with the instructor. Our goal is to provide each other with a safe and inspired environment for creating new writing and expanding our repertoire for revising our own work.
Creating Fiction: From Start to Published
From outlining and plotting to character development and writer's block, this workshop will cover the bones of creative writing and provide the tools for completion of a full story. Each day will include a short reading from an established writer, as well as a writing prompt that we will use both in class and out to create pieces of fiction. Student works will receive individual attention from the instructor as well as feedback from the group about what works and what needs work. The final days of the course will cover the publishing industry, including agents, query letters and the editing process (there's a business side to this creative stuff, too). The goal is for students to start a piece of fiction, and leave with the tools they need to finish it and get it published.
Writing Young Adult Fiction
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, plus 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.
Food, Place and the Self: Writing from Experience
This creative writing course will delve into both fiction and nonfiction, drawing inspiration from students' own experiences. Along the way we'll explore three related themes as touchstones for the course: place, food and the self. Evocations of place aren't simply background settings; they're critical components in the creation of character, mood, metaphor and style, and are especially important in revealing ourselves on the page. It's the same with food. Writers use food in their essays and stories—particularly the acts of gathering, preparing, serving and eating (or refusing) food—to create and convey information about character, setting, relationships, social and economic status and so on. During this two-week course we'll explore the relationship between place, food and the self through discussion of a wide selection of short readings, in and out of class writing, editing and critique workshops, and a note-taking foray in downtown Northampton. Note that we won't be writing about food and place so much as using these markers to reveal information about ourselves through short stories and memoir essays.
Writing from Physicality
This three-hour, morning physically intensive course will explore the creative, human body through guided improvisational movement, dance, solo performance, and contact improvisation. We will be working to develop body and group awareness and trust. Through awakening the body we will be flexing our creativity and strengthening our spontaneity. The physical work we explore in class will be the foundation from which we write from. What story can be created in words from what we see? What relationships emerge? What is uncovered within ourselves when we do things we didn't think possible? Our goal is creative empowerment through improvisational play.
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.
William Carlos Williams once said that a poem is "a small (or large) machine made out of words." In this imaginative writing workshop, we will pay careful attention to the various ways words can be wired together to power poems. Like mechanics, we will take these strange machines apart and put them back together again. Special attention will be paid to generative techniques such as erasure, F7, collage, flarf, and collaboration. Through in-class writing exercises, reading of model poems and discussion of student work, we will expand our poetic vocabularies and imaginative capabilities. Assignments will include focused creative prompts and imitations of published authors. You will leave this class knowing many new ways to make poems happen.
Advanced Fiction Writing
"Writing is the only thing that, when I do it, I don't feel I should be doing something else." Gloria Steinem
Do you feel like that? Is writing an experience of absorption, of immersion, of discovery -- at least on the good days? If so, hurrah! You have the bug. This workshop starts from the assumption that you love to write and have spent time dedicating yourself to that task. Through in/out-of-class writing, readings and class discussions, we will examine together the core elements of crafting good fiction: characterization, dialogue, description, plotting, pacing, point of view and tone, for starters. Our focus will be on your writing, both generating new material and critiquing and revising existing drafts. To that end, each student is asked to bring an (approximately) 12 page manuscript to the first class; these manuscripts (which can be either a short story or a section of a novel) will be workshopped by the entire class. Each student will also meet individually with the instructor about her work.
Life Stories: The Art of the Profile
How do you distill a person's character into words? In this class, we will examine the art of the profile and learn interviewing skills. As a rule, profile writers don't attempt to tell entire life stories. Instead, they focus on defining moments in their subjects' lives, and in doing so they are able to capture the essence of their characters. We will read a range of magazine profiles and aim to answer the following questions: What do the writers want us to understand about their subjects? What are some examples of "telling details" the authors use to describe these subjects? And how does each writer's own voice or style complement the voice of the person being profiled, whether the subject in question is a movie star, a famous athlete, or an average 10-year-old boy? Using firsthand interviews and research, we will write our own profiles and capture a moment in time in our subjects' lives.
In Playwrighting, students will have the opportunity to write and develop their own, original scripts. Starting with writing prompts, students will learn how playwrights nurture their own 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 out them into action. We will constantly stress that theatre 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 our students not only develop an appreciation of dialogue, and but also to leave the workshop with a script they further develop and perform.
Constructing the Graphic Novel
In this combined classroom/workshop course, young writers will learn to structure and create their own graphic novels, from the beginning stages of plot and outline, through text, dialogue, layouts, lettering and finished art. We'll discuss the importance of character development and backstory, and learn techniques borrowed from filmmaking such as beat-sheets and the three-act structure. The course will move from discussion to workshop, with informal interludes where we'll talk about our favorite comics and graphic novels, share what motivates us as writers, and consider how the medium can be used to help us enrich our voice and hone our craft. Throughout the process, we'll look at details from acclaimed works in the field and discuss what works and what doesn't. Closing emphasis will be placed on avenues of publication. Drawing ability is not necessary but having a cinematic eye helps.
Writing for Hollywood
Visual storytelling is the key whether you're writing a feature or short film, a television pilot or Web series. This course will help you find the story you want to tell in the medium in which you want to tell it. We will review the elements that make up a good story: specificity, conflict, relationship, character and plot. We will also learn about television and film genres and the specific formatting that each requires.