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Creative Writing Workshop

With few writing programs that cater exclusively to students in high school, Smith’s Creative Writing Workshop allows you to explore your writing in a creative and supportive environment. This program will foster your love of writing in a variety of mediums. All of our classes apply the design model to writing: Rather than trying to craft perfect texts, we teach an open, multidraft process that embraces the unpredictable that occurs when we stop trying to control our writing. So while you will learn how to edit your own and others’ work, our primary goal is for you to learn a powerful, flexible approach that eliminates writer’s block and gives you access to your full creativity.

Program Dates: July 9–July 23, 2023
See below for 2022 details and pricing. 2023 details coming soon!

Find Your Voice

High school students from around the world gather together to hone their writing skills in a highly creative, but nonjudgmental, environment. There is something empowering about hearing your own lines being read in a supportive way that gives you a chance to let your full voice out. The equation is simple: you, your talent and what you want to write about. The sum total: Magic!

Program Details

2022 Creative Writing Workshop Tuition

Tuition: $4,285 | Deposit: $850

Deposit due within two weeks of acceptance.

To learn more, see the Apply to Summer Programs webpage.

Overview

Instructors are published writers who have been trained in this methodology and who provide a supportive, strengths-based classroom environment. In addition to individual feedback from your instructors, you will also become part of an international writing community, as the program accepts students from all over the world.

In the evenings, students can take part in activities such as open mic night and improv, or attend workshops on publishing, finding an agent and creating an author website.

At the end of the program, you will have the start of an online writing portfolio, an anthology with writing samples from all of the students and professional contacts in the literary world.

2022 Program Details

July 9–July 23, 2022
Classes are Monday–Friday.
Morning
Sessions
  • Flash Fiction
  • IFiction
  • Realistic Unreality: A Workshop in Science Fiction
  • The Writer’s Eye
  • Writing Fantasy: A Workshop in Writing Reality-Bending Fiction
  • Picture Books: Writing Stories for People Who Can’t Yet Read
  • Writing on the Edge of Reality
Afternoon
Sessions
  • Making Poems
  • Playwriting
  • Screenwriting
  • STAND UP! Comedy Writing
  • They Don’t Know Who We Be: Selfhood in the Poem
  • Writing about Food
  • Writing for Magazines

Courses

Morning Sessions

Afternoon Sessions

Instructor

Heidi Y. Stemple

Course Description

Just because they’re short and written for children, doesn’t mean picture books are easy. In fact, both these things make creating books for children harder to write. Learn all about picture books including, but not limited to, how to write one. Challenge yourself to write a good story for the smallest (and pickiest) audience. No art necessary, but welcomed if you feel inspired. Ability to draw NOT required.

Instructor

Maureen Jones

Course Description

Sometimes we don’t need all our words to tell a story. Sometimes it arrives like a bolt of lightning, or at least it feels that way to the reader. If you like the electricity and snap of saying more with less, flash fiction will give you a good workout. In this workshop we will explore how to hone in on the essence of character and plot and weed out what doesn’t need to be said. We will toy with the line between sudden fiction and prose poems, and let ourselves define the boundaries. We will dip into the history of this genre and its various forms, and in the process we will discover what surprises us and takes us someplace new.

Instructor

Jennifer Jacobson

Course Description

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.

Instructor

James L. Cambia

Course Description

We live in a science fiction world, where billionaires build rocket ships and a new virus threatens civilization. The dreams and nightmares of science fiction writers are mundane reality, and nobody dismisses the genre as “Buck Rogers stuff” any longer. Realistic Unreality is a workshop for aspiring writers of science fiction and fantasy. We will focus on how to make stories which are good as fantastic fiction and good as literature. During the first week, students create stories, helped and inspired by writing prompts and readings from some of the field’s masters. Brief lectures address the fundamentals of character, plot, world building and voice. In the second week, the class will jointly critique stories and get practical advice on submitting stories, publishing and the business of writing.

Instructor

Carin Clevidence

Course Description

What makes writing come alive on the page? How do the authors we love immerse us in scenes so vivid we feel as if we’re experiencing them ourselves? In this two-week session, we’ll explore all the elements of crafting fiction with a special focus on learning how to make imagined moments real. Using short examples of evocative prose and field trips to local attractions like the Smith Art Museum and the Botanical Garden, we will hone our writer’s eye and our attention to detail. We’ll generate pages of lively prose through in-class writing prompts and small group writing exercises. The second week will be devoted to supportive and constructive workshop discussions. An eye for arresting detail strengthens any writer’s work, so although this course is designed primarily for writers of fiction, it should be useful for those interested in poetry, nonfiction, and graphic novels as well.

Instructor

Morgan Sheehan-Bubla

Course Description

Do you write (or aspire to write) fiction unencumbered by what’s “realistic”? Are you inspired by fairytales, mythology, fantasy, science fiction, ghost stories or dreams? Do your characters sometimes have magical abilities? This workshop is for writers interested in exploring modes of storytelling other than realism while simultaneously learning how to strengthen all of the traditional elements of fiction. The first week, we’ll generate new work in response to a number of imaginative prompts and writing exercises. We’ll also look at short, masterful excerpts from authors who challenge realism, with special attention to the types of fabulist distortions used and the real-world truths they get at. We’ll turn an eye to questions of craft: What makes a compelling plot? How do we create characters so alive we can feel them breathing? How do we build tension from the first lines? The second week, you’ll receive feedback from the group on one story, and we’ll focus on revision and next steps in your writing journey. You’ll leave with lots of new work as well as tools and techniques that will help you continue to write and explore reality-bending stories on your own.

Instructor

Erin Butler

Course Description

Sometimes, we can understand reality better by writing just beyond what is real. In this two-week workshop, we’ll study what it means to write fiction that is rooted in, but not constrained by, reality. During our first week, you will read excerpts by some of the best writers who innovate by writing in the realm of the creepy, the otherworldly, the uncanny, and the psychologically complex. Then, you will generate lots of new work by responding to writing prompts that help you explode and extend what is realistic. During our second week, you will receive feedback on the story you’ve built and provide feedback on your peers’ work. Throughout the course, you’ll be asked to challenge your assumptions, extend your thinking, and consider what you might find beyond the borders of what you know and experience.

Instructor

Chris Ayala

Course Description

In our workshop, we’ll approach writing as a playful endeavor, exploring epistolary poetry (poems as letters), ecopoetry (poems as activism for the environment), ekphrastic poetry (poetic responses to visual art), some fun new poetic forms, writing inside and outside in inspiring places, and writing in collaboration with each other. We’ll cultivate our imaginations while experimenting with our own writing and responding to the work of others. In the poems we create in workshop, and in the poems that we read and listen to together, we’ll investigate and appreciate originality, heart, music, the use of beautiful, interesting language, and the ways in which poems can represent us and take a stand for the things we hold dear and the things we want to change.

Instructor

Phil O’Donoghue

Course Description

In playwriting, 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, but also to leave the workshop with a script they further develop and perform.

Instructor

Wade Wofford

Course Description

Consider a strange form of writing ... where the words on the page are but the first step to an end product that is not based in words at all! The screenwriter uses words to illicit images, thus guiding readers to “make a mind movie” (and hopefully an *actual* movie in the future). In this course, we will study the three-act structure of film as a medium, then use our understanding of that structure to craft screenplays of our own. We will explore the use of tone, character voice, dialogue and action as vehicles to drive our scripts. By the end of the class, each student will have created a concept, written an outline for a full feature and penned three sequences from that film (one from each act).

Instructor

Kim DeShields

Course Description

Stand-up comedy has the power to heal and renew, validate shared experiences, counterbalance bigotry and reach people who would otherwise be unwilling to listen. In this workshop, you’ll learn how to be a stand-up comedian. We’ll analyze the works of established comedians and discuss the impact of certain types of jokes. We’ll explore how to identify potential material, how to turn life experiences into jokes and make simple observations funny. You’ll learn ease, flow and stage presence through improvisational games and develop your own personal comedy style or persona. We’ll also discuss how to control hecklers and other distractions during a performance. By the end of the workshop, each student will have a stand-up set that they can perform for the class.

Instructor

Claudia M. Wilson

Course Description

In her collection of poems The Hermit-Woman, Gayl Jones says, “I would disappear, but I have a malady that keeps me visible.” How does the self or selves appear in poems? What keeps the self visible and how does self-revelation serve our own poem making? Conversely, what does withholding the self do? What types of selfhood are possible in a poem; what dimensions? Which strategies work for introducing or building the complexities of who we are in our work? While the speaker and the self are not always the same, there are times when this relationship is confusing, unique and complex. When we consider art broadly, we see many selves in the art of Beyonce (Sasha Fierce/Mrs. Carter, Kendrick Lamar/Kung-Fu Kenny, or Meg Thee Stallion/Tina Snow/Suga). While we won’t solely explore these artists, we will use them as conversation starters (entry points) and then pivot to other artists, namely poets. We’ll consider poems by Gayl Jones, Tim Seibles, Ariana Brown and Cameron Awkward Rich for our study. Then we’ll reflect and write into these questions using what we have read as guideposts. By the end we will build a working approach to these provocative questions.

Instructor

Sara Eddy

Course Description

We all have stories we want to tell, about our lives, our families, things we have seen and things that happen in the world around us. How can we tell those stories compellingly? Creative nonfiction helps us tell “true” stories in ways that resonate with an audience, giving them an ‘in’ into our lives and our worldview. When writing these stories—in personal essays, memoirs, blog posts—we can borrow techniques from creative writing to connect with our readers and create diverse, creative, relatable work.

In this class we’ll explore the elements of creative nonfiction using food as our topic and inspiration. Food is a powerful force in our lives: it is a site of guilt, desire, joy, memory, self-denial, and even fear. This means it can be used as a potent tool in writing memoir, portrait and description. In the first week of this class we’ll examine short works of creative nonfiction that use food as a key element, and you will be given in-class exercises and prompts based on those works that will help you generate ideas and write your own pieces about food and its meaning in our lives. During the second week we will use a variety of workshop methods to help you expand, revise and polish one of the pieces from the first week. Take this class if you’d like to write about that time you snorted milk through your nose in the elementary school cafeteria.

Instructor

Karen Aho

Course Description

Do you have a story you’d like to see published in Teen Ink or Teen Vogue, or in a newspaper or magazine where you live? In this class, you will work with a veteran journalist to turn your personal story into a reported piece of journalism ready for publication. Together we will select a story idea from among several you bring to the first class—stories that impact your life or that of a friend or family member. You will then add original research and reporting to transform your story into one with a broader appeal more suitable for a wide audience. In the first week, we will read and dissect some truly great magazine pieces; learn how to find credible sources; conduct practice interviews (and learn what it means to have “a good ear”); tackle the all-important “lede” and “nut graf”; and write a query—a letter used to pitch your story to a real publication. In the second-week workshops, you will incorporate these techniques to fine tune a story and a pitch for publication.