The following questions are among those most frequently asked by students and their parents.
How is the workshop structured?
Students participate in three ninety-minute workshops each day—two in the morning and one after lunch. The pace and content of the three workshops varies. Group writing activities are balanced by class discussions of assigned readings, by the sharing of writing, and by frequent work in small writing or inquiry groups (which often meet outdoors); also by time for individual writing. The atmosphere is informal. The workshop leaders write with the students.
Will I have a chance to write short stories and poetry?
Yes. Opportunities exist for composing in many different forms, and you will probably end up feeling that you have done a good deal of “creative writing” by the end of the two weeks. But the workshop also focuses on other uses of writing. For example, we practice ways of using writing as a learning tool, whether one is exploring history, art, one’s personal experience, or natural phenomena.
Students devote a significant part of their time to writing about what they observe and what they read, and then use these pieces of informal writing as starting points for discussion, further inquiry, and possibly more extended pieces of exploratory or interpretive writing. Free-writing, focused free-writing, and process writing (observing and writing about one’s own composing and learning experiences) are among the techniques most frequently used in the workshop.
Is the workshop graded?
The workshop is ungraded. Students’ work is not evaluated in any formal sense. Instead, both students and workshop leaders practice responding to one another’s writing in ways that help others to extend their thinking and engage in revision. Through immersing themselves in language and thinking, students leave the workshop with a clearer, more self-directed sense of what they need and want to continue working on in their writing.
What is the social and cultural life of the program like?
There is a strong social dimension to the workshop, both in and out of class. Students regularly share their work in progress, both in class and in small, peer writing groups. The focus is on working together as a writing and learning community. This sense of community is strengthened outside of class by dormitory life, recreational activities, and the opportunity to attend various cultural or sporting events. The presence on campus of other high school students in other programs contributes to the social and academic diversity.
What happens after class or on weekends?
Classes end at 4:00 each day, leaving ample time for recreational activities such as swimming, volleyball, hiking, art programs, and so on. Students normally have some writing and reading to do each evening and over the weekend. Although the work in the classroom is often demanding, overall the pace of life is fairly relaxed compared to the normal school year.
What kinds of students enroll in the workshop?
Our students are a diverse group, representing a wide range of academic and personal interests. Some are experienced writers who are hoping to expand their range and their knowledge of technique. Others might be skilled in math and science and are looking to gain more experience in the ways that writing can empower learning in all fields. Overall, the student who will benefit most from the workshop is one who likes to work with other people and who isn’t looking for a traditional approach to writing and learning. Being open to experimenting with new approaches, willing to be playful and take some risks as a learner, interested in the process of learning more than final goals—these qualities characterize the typical student in the Young Writers program.
Our participants tend also to be multi-talented, and we encourage them to organize a talent show or dance or other creative recreation. These student-run activities are opportunities to have fun, share talents with friends, and to develop new interests as well.