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Young Women's Writing Workshop

Courses & Workshops

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.

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.

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.

Fiction: The Art of Creating & Revising 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.

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.

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 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.

Writing and the Body

Troy David Mercier

Through a series of games, in-class writing assignments, out-of-the-classroom adventures, and, of course, field trips, we will be opening up your imagination to the possibilities of more creative writing. We will read and discuss picture books, poetry and plays as a group. We will throw around various size balls that bounce. We will blow bubbles. We will wade in ankle-high water. We will dance. We will tell stories. We will write stories. This three-hour morning course offers the potential to change your life. The class facilitates an atmosphere of friendship, support and brilliant, imaginative writing. The goal of the class is to empower you creatively through trust and play.


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.


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.