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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.

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.


2017 Courses & Workshops

Listed below are the courses offered in summer 2017. Our summer 2018 courses will be posted in January 2018.

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

MB Caschetta

Course Description

What does it mean to write fiction as a woman today? How have the voices of the women writers who came before us helped to shape our fiction topics, perspectives, and voices? What is the “Women's Literary Cannon” and what does (or should) it mean to young writers of your generation? We will each write and workshop new stories, while learning about the women fiction writers who made our own voices possible. Among others, we will read: Sappho, Margery Kemp, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Charlotte Perkins, Gertrude Stein, Flannery O’Connor, Audre Lorde, Toni Morrison, and more.

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

Laura Willwerth

Course Description

This class will explore the particular magic of young adult fiction. We will approach the genre as creative readers, using excerpts from published novels to articulate what you love about your favorite books. During the first week, you will generate a batch of beginnings from a variety of prompts. You’ll try out different voices and write some bold, messy, crazy experimental drafts. Then you’ll choose the beginning you love most and expand it to a full story to share with the group. In the second week, we will workshop your original pieces and send you home with a plan to revise and grow your story to its full potential. This class is about writing the stories you want to read and creating the worlds and characters you want to know.

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

TBD

Course Description

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 Bomb documentaries, 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

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

TBD

Course Description

ive 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.

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 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. 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. In addition to his work with the summer programs, Peter also teaches composition and public speaking at Smith College.

MB Caschetta

MB Caschetta is the author of three books. People Magazine called her novel MIRACLE GIRLS  ”darkly beautiful" and her new collection of linked stories PRETEND IM YOUR FRIEND  ”an affecting collection...about the things we do for love.“ She is now working on a nonfiction book about being disinherited based on an essay published in the New York Times, Modern Love Column. One of her favorite things to do is talk to other writers (new and seasoned) about writing.

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 an masters 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.

Jennifer Jacobson

Malawi-born educator Jennifer Jacobson is a storyteller and creative writer. She is the founder of an award-winning program that unites language arts and social action. In 2008, she received a fellowship from the Creative Minds Initiative through the Massachusetts Cultural Council for her innovative work with young people. Her fiction and poetry have appeared in magazines and online journals. This year her short stories received honorable mention from the Tennessee Williams Literary Festival and Glimmer Train magazine. Jennifer lives in Northampton and has a master’s in creative writing from Lesley University. She teaches creative writing, performance techniques and approaches for storytelling across the curriculum.

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.

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.

Laura Willwerth

Laura Willwerth has an MFA in fiction from the UMass Amherst Program for Poets and Writers, where she taught composition and fiction writing to undergraduates. Her stories have appeared in Route Nine and The Massachusetts Review, and her first poetry chapbook is forthcoming from Factory Hollow Press.

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).


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