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Young Women's Writing Workshop

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Courses & Workshops

For the morning session, you will select a creative fiction course. In the afternoon, you may choose a course from among a variety of special interest classes.

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

Morning Session

Ready, Set, Write! – A Fiction Workshop

Sara London

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.

Discovering What We Know & Who We Are Through Fiction

MB Caschetta

The short story writer Flannery O'Connor said "I write to discover what I know." For many women—not just writers—words on a page become a form of self-expression, self-affirmation, and self-discovery. When the words are fictional, it opens up a sure path to discovering the truth and finding out who we really are and what we really think. In this workshop, we will explore the world around us (as well as ourselves and our voices) through the characters we create, the places they inhabit, and the things they tell us through dialogue. We will use daily writing exercises to generate fictional scenes and then share them with each other. Our goal will be to find out what it is we think and feel as writers, and who we are (at least for today) as women. Come prepared to write, learn, and share. Our promise to one another will be to remain open and generous to the characters within, as well as to the other writers in the class.

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.

Writing Young Adult Fiction

Laura Willwerth

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.

iFiction: 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.

Writing Young Adult Fiction

Morgan Sheehan

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.

Creative Buffet—The Great Creative Mash Up

Marlee Stempleman

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 Bombdocumentaries, 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

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.

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.

Memoir Workshop: Who Are You?

John Maradik

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.

Intro to Screenwriting

Wade Wofford

In this course, students immerse themselves in all aspects of visual storytelling, including the development of concept, theme, character, dialogue and dramatic structure. Using film, produced screenplays and short texts as instructional tools, students will write (and rewrite!) the first act of a screenplay and an outline for acts two and three. During the first week, we'll familiarize students with the fundamentals of screenwriting using writing prompts that relate to their stories. The second week will be devoted to workshopping the first act and outline. 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.


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.


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.

Making Poems

Alex Chambers

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.