Skip Navigation

Young Women’s Writing Workshop

July 8–21, 2018

Young woman writes in journal near Smith College fountain during women's writing summer program

With so few writing programs that cater exclusively to high school girls, Smith's Young Women's Writing Workshop allows you to explore your writing in a creative and supportive environment that fosters your love of writing in a variety of mediums.

Please Note

Program information is from 2018. Our 2019 Precollege Program opportunities will be updated by December 2018.

All of your classes will be in workshop style, which means each class will begin with a short segment that focuses on a single lesson. Then the instructors will check in with you to see what you are working on. Open writing time follows. The class session ends with each writer sharing her progress with the group.

Your professors are all published writers and poets. They will pay special attention to teaching you how to read your work to an audience and how to get published. At the end of the workshop, you will have the start of an online writing portfolio and some professional contacts in the literary world.


2018 Courses & Workshops

Once we accept students, we will send you a course preference selection sheet. We strive to provide at least one of your first choices.

Morning Session

Select a creative fiction course

Instructor

Sara London

Course Description

Are you a secret scribbler (or maybe not-so-secret), eager to get a new story onto the page? Do you have a zillion ideas, or none at all, with no clue how to begin? In this workshop you’ll learn the tricky arts of launching a narrative, creating character, and developing “voice” and point-of-view. You’ll practice writing dialogue and description, and consider the puzzle of plot. We’ll start with in-class prompts, exercises and group writing, and we’ll take short peeks at masterful examples. During week two (our “workshop” week), the class will provide you with loads of feedback on a story. Our aim is to send you home with a complete new narrative and the tools to revise and to write even more on your own. While we’ll focus on crafting “realistic” fiction, we’ll also consider the fun possibilities of magical realism.

Instructor

Veronica Chambers

Course Description

Jhumpa Lahiri has said, “Fiction is an act of willfulness, a deliberate effort to reconceive, to rearrange, to reconstitute nothing short of reality itself. Even among the most reluctant and doubtful of writers, this willfulness must emerge. Being a writer means taking the leap from listening to saying, 'Listen to me.'" Women writers have always turned to literature to reimagine our past, our present and our futures. In this workshop, we’ll read work by Lisa See, Margaret Atwood, Tahereh Mafi, Curtis Sittenfeld, Zadie Smith and Isabelle Allende. We will also write and workshop new stories. The only requirement for this course is the willingness to try and the ability to listen with compassion and a genuine desire to help your fellow writers. We’ll leap into the work together.

Instructor

Boomer Pinches

Course Description

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.

Instructor

Sara Eddy

Course Description

Food is a powerful force in our lives: it is a site of guilt, desire, joy, memory, self-denial, and even fear. This makes it an especially potent tool in writing character and plot in fiction. In the first week of this class, we’ll examine short works of fiction 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 fictions of food. 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.

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

Morgan Sheehan

Course Description

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.

Instructor

Debra Jo Immergut

Course Description

When reading fiction, locating the boundary between the writer’s imagination and the writer’s reality is an endlessly fascinating and mysterious process. In this workshop, we’ll examine how a student writer can most effectively play along that boundary by fictionalizing her own life. We’ll explore how a writer can dig deep into her essential truths without suffering from overexposure, and how she can mine her own experiences for the raw elements of powerful work. Through readings and discussion, we’ll consider when it’s best to stick close to what really happened, and when it’s better to reimagine real-world events to give them greater narrative drive and resonance. Students will be given creative writing prompts to help generate ideas and stories, and feedback will be offered in group discussions and a one-on-one conference with the instructor. By workshop’s end, students will see how even a young life can yield ample material for exciting and meaningful fiction.

Afternoon Session

Select from a variety of special interest classes

Instructor

Emily Pettit

Course Description

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.

Instructor

Brian David Mooney

Course Description

Imagine for a moment that memory is an actual place. The maps for this place are unique to each individual. In the safe, supportive environment of this class, we will literally make a map or two, and we’ll use these maps to guide us into the country of memory. Once there, we are sure to see some big things. Memory is full of big things. But let’s be careful to notice the small things, because in the country of memory, small things can also be big things– after all, sometimes the smallest of memories can shine a light on the great themes of our lives. In the first week of our time together we’ll explore the country of memory with a variety of prompts and readings. We will travel back in time, and we will consider the difference between fact and truth. In the second week, we’ll spend time in workshop talking about where we’ve been and where we’re going, and we will revise, polish, and share what has been found, mined, gathered, hunted, and harvested. Through it all, we will keep in mind that writing from our lives helps people know us better— and it helps us know ourselves better, too.

Instructor

John Maradik

Course Description

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.

Instructor

Wade Wofford

Course Description

In this course, students will immerse themselves in all aspects of visual storytelling, including the development of concept, theme, character, dialogue and dramatic structure. Using films, produced screenplays and short texts as instructional tools, students will learn the fundamentals of structuring a story for translation to the screen. During the first week, students will “find the film they want to make” through a series of outlining and structure workshops. The second week will be devoted to workshopping the first act, outline, and select scenes from acts two and three. 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.

Instructor

Phil O'Donoghue

Course Description

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.

Instructor

Maureen Buchanan Jones

Course Description

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.

Instructor

Alex Chambers

Course Description

In this workshop, we’re going to make poems, and we're going to do that by laying out maps, mixing up words, sketching dreams, listening to clouds. We’ll draw monsters and make them answer poetic questions. We’re likely to play surreal games. We will excavate memories from the substrata of our minds, and feelings from our toes and fingernails (figuratively, at least). We will also read and talk about other writers’ poems, to figure out what a poem is and can be. We’ll spend much of the first week being surprised by our own creations and finding what moves us in published poems. In the second week, we will consider how to talk about each other’s poems as we work toward putting together a collaborative book of our writing.


Our Faculty

Peter Sapira

Academic director and instructor Peter Sapira received his bachelor of arts in English from San Francisco State University and his master of fine arts in English from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. In addition to his work with the summer programs, Sapira also teaches composition and public speaking at Smith College. As part of his work in the Smith College Writing Center, he helps students write grant proposals, graduate school and internship applications and cover letters, as well as essays for classes across the curriculum. He has had short stories published in Anarchy, Inkwell, The Carolina Review, The Black River Review, The Literary Review and Pleiades. Folio Literary Management currently represents his first novel, Billy Hill.

Alex Chambers

Alex Chambers grew up in Northampton but has lived most of his adult life in parts west and south. He has published poems, essays and reviews in Gulf Coast, Puerto del Sol, Paper Darts, The Rumpus and elsewhere, and has taught in prisons, high schools, community centers and universities.He has a master's in fine arts in creative writing from the University of Alabama and is currently completing a doctorate in American studies at Indiana University in Bloomington.

Veronica Chambers

Veronica Chambers is a prolific author, best known for her critically acclaimed memoir, Mama’s Girl. Most recently, she was the editor of The Meaning of Michelle: 16 Writers on the Iconic First Lady and How Her Journey Inspires Our Own, which Time magazine named one of the top ten nonfiction books of 2017. She has written more than a dozen books for young readers, including Plus. She's co-written New York Times bestselling memoirs with Eric Ripert, Michael Strahan, Robin Roberts and Marcus Samuelsson. She's a proud alumna of the Youth Communication teen journalism program and of Bard College at Simon's Rock. Visit her online at www.veronicachambers.com.

Sara Eddy

Sara Eddy teaches writing and tutors in the Jacobson Center for Writing at Smith College. As part of this work, she teaches a class on food writing and helps students craft stories, essays and reviews that focus on the meaning of food in our lives. She is the recipient of a Kahn Fellowship for the 2018-19 academic year and will be completing a creative project about food and writing. Her work has appeared in Parks & Points, Panoply, and Foundry. She holds a master’s and a doctorate in American literature, both from Tufts University.

Debra Jo Immergut

Debra Jo Immergut's debut novel, The Captives, was published in June 2018 by Ecco/HarperCollins. She has also published a book of short fiction, Private Property (Random House), and stories in American Short Fiction and the Russian-language journal Foreign Literature. She previously worked as a magazine editor, has been a frequent contributor to the Wall Street Journal and Boston Globe, and has taught writing at the Universities of Iowa and Maryland as well as in libraries and prisons. She was awarded a MacDowell Fellowship and a Michener Fellowship and has a master's from the Iowa Writer's Workshop.

Jennifer Jacobson

Jennifer Jacobson is the director of the Juniper Summer Writing Institute and the Juniper Institute for Young Writers. She is also the associate director of the MFA for Poets and Writers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She founded the nonprofit organization When Children Save the Day to unite language arts and social action. Her work has been honored with a Creative Teaching Fellowship from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, the National Storytelling Network’s Brimstone Award for transformative community projects, along with support from the Solidago Foundation and the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts. Her short story “Heat” received an honorable mention from Glimmer Train, and “Trouble and Bones” was a Tennessee Williams Festival’s Fiction contest finalist. Jennifer teaches creative writing at Smith College’s Young Women’s Writing Workshop, and with Voices From Inside, created the Family Storybook Project curriculum for incarcerated women and their children.

Maureen Buchanan Jones

Maureen Buchanan Jones is the executive director of Amherst Writers & Artists and leads writing workshops in Northampton, Massachusetts, through her business, Writing Full Tilt. She has led workshops with women who have experienced domestic violence. Her poetry has appeared in Woman in Natural Resources, 13th Moon, Peregrine, North Dakota Quarterly, Letters from Daughters to Fathers, Writer Advice, Equinox, Calyx and Chrysalis. Her prose has appeared in Orion and on WFCR–NPR. Her book of poems, blessed are the menial chores, is available on her website. Jones’ novel, Maud & Addie, is with Writer’s House of New York. Jones holds a doctorate in English literature from the University of Massachusetts, and she has been teaching literature as well as technical and creative writing for 24 years.

Sara London

Sara London is the author of a poetry collection, The Tyranny of Milk (Four Way Books), and two children’s books, Firehorse Max (HarperCollins) and The Good Luck Glasses (Scholastic). A former fiction editor at Seventeen Magazine, she has taught creative writing and literature at Smith, Mount Holyoke and Amherst colleges. Her work has been published in such venues as The Hudson Review, Poetry East, The Iowa Review, the Poetry Daily Anthology, AGNI Online, and The Common, and she’s written many reviews of children’s books for The New York Times Book Review. Sara was born in San Francisco, grew up in Vermont, and now lives in Northampton. She is currently at work on a novel.

John Maradik

John Maradik received his master’s from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. His work has appeared in American Short Fiction, Fourteen Hills and Unstuck, and he is the co-author of the collaborative chapbook Peer Confessions. He has taught undergraduate fiction writing at UMass.

Brian David Mooney

Brian David Mooney received his MFA from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and he’s taught creative writing and memoir at Marlboro College, UMass, and The Putney School Summer Programs. He has published essays, fiction, and poetry in Chicago Review, Seattle Review, Bellevue Literary Review, Cincinnati Review, and lots of other places. His essays about the creative process have been presented by the arts advocacy organization United States Artists at the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art, Paramount Studios, and Jazz at Lincoln Center. Brian is also the guy behind The Storymatic and Rememory, creative prompts that help people write and share stories and memories. His writing and teaching is very much informed by Robert Frost’s statement, "No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader." Originally from Housatonic, a village about an hour west of Northampton, he now lives in Vermont.

Phil O’Donoghue

Phil O’Donoghue is an assistant professor of theater and English at Springfield Technical Community College (STCC), where he teaches playwrighting, acting and theater literature. In addition to directing at STCC, he has also directed at the Williston-Northampton Summer Theatre Program. He holds a master’s in playwrighting from Smith College, where he studied under Len Berkman, the Anne Hesseltine Hoyt Professor of Theatre at Smith College. Phil has had plays produced in New York, Los Angeles and Boston, and is an original member of the Northampton 24-Hour Theatre Project.

Emily Pettit

Emily Pettit is an editor for Factory Hollow Press and notnostrums, and for three years has been the publisher of the exciting literary print journal jubilat. Pettit has taught writing courses at the University of Iowa, the University of Massachusetts and Elms College. She currently teaches poetry at Flying Object in Hadley, Massachusetts. Pettit’s first collection of poems, Goat in the Snow, came out in early 2012 with Birds LLC. Her poems have been featured in the Academy of American Poets/Poem a Day Series, Fence, Open Letters, Verse Daily and The Huffington Post.

Boomer Pinches

Boomer Pinches is a lecturer at Smith College and Western New England University. His fiction and poetry have appeared in The Sun, Tin House, The Massachusetts Review, matchbook.com, notnostrums, The Austin Review and Best New American Voices 2010. He received his master’s from the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 2010 and was a recipient of a Yaddo Fellowship.

Morgan Sheehan

Morgan Sheehan is a playwright and fiction writer. Her plays have been produced in New York, London, California and lovely Iowa. She has a bachelor’s degree from the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University and a master’s in playwriting and theater arts from the University of Iowa’s Writers’ Workshop. She has taught playwriting, fiction, acting and theatrical analysis. She currently teaches English at Western New England University in Springfield, Massachusetts, and works on all things dragon at her home in Hatfield, Massachusetts.

Wade Wofford

Wade Wofford has studied cinema for 20 years: drama at the University of Georgia, acting at the Sanford Meisner Center and film production at The Los Angeles Film School. He wrote, directed and produced Perception, which won Best Dramatic Feature at Hollywood's DIY Film Festival. In 2006, Wofford moved to Northampton, where he founded Noho Screenwriters Workshop, and co-founded Happy Wasteland Studios, which produced his second feature, The Answer (winner of the Rising Star Award at the Canada International Film Festival, and Heroes Don’t Come Home (which Wofford DP’d).


Program Schedule

Sunday, July 8, 2018
1-4 p.m. Registration
4-5 p.m. Parent Q&A
TBD Residential orientation
Monday, July 9, 2018
9 a.m. Classes begin
Saturday, July 21, 2018
9-11 a.m. Departure

A Typical Day

7-8:30 a.m. Breakfast
9-11:45 a.m. Morning classes or an off-campus field trip
Noon-1 p.m. Lunch
1-4 p.m. Afternoon classes or an off-campus field trip
5:30-7 p.m. Dinner
7-10 p.m. Fun house activities that change daily
10 p.m. All participants must be in their room for the night
11 p.m. Lights out