The Young Writers Workshop is a three-week summer creative writing program for students currently completing grades 9,10, and 11.
In the summer of 1983 Simon’s Rock began offering a three-week writing workshop for high school students modeled after the innovative three-week Workshop in Language and Thinking required of all entering students at Bard College. Since then the workshop has evolved and is part of the National Writing and Thinking Network with an affiliated site at Lake Forest College.
Each year 84 academically motivated students are chosen to participate in the workshop at Simon’s Rock. Former participants have gone on to such colleges as Amherst, Bard, Harvard, Haverford, Kenyon, Princeton, Simon’s Rock, Smith, Williams, and Yale.
Unlike more traditional workshops in creative writing, the Young Writers Workshop focuses on using informal, playful, and expressive writing as a way to strengthen skills of language and thinking. Out of these informal writing activities, using techniques of peer response, students develop more polished pieces, ranging from personal narratives to short stories, poems, brief dramatic works, and experiments in creative nonfiction.
The workshop sections are small (12 students). This size allows for individual attention to each student and helps to foster the sense of belonging to a supportive learning community in which students can feel comfortable exploring new directions in their writing and thinking. Trusting one’s own language and voice, learning to think for oneself and in collaboration with others—these are the qualities and skills that the workshop strives to develop.
Each weekday consists of three 90-minute sessions organized as writing and discussion seminars. Workshop leaders write with their students, and there is frequent sharing of this informal writing, both in small groups and in the class as a whole. Discussions of assigned readings—mostly contemporary poems, stories, and essays—is informal and speculative. The emphasis isn’t on arriving at a “correct answer” but on exploring various ideas about what a text is saying. The texts also frequently serve as starting points and models for students’ own creative writing exercises. These daily activities are complemented by evening assignments in reading, revising, and journal writing.
Each week students develop a portfolio of “works in progress” and then meet individually with their workshop leader to discuss what they have written. Rather than evaluation, these meetings focus on what the writer is trying to do in his or her writing and how best to accomplish these goals. By becoming more conscious of their choices and strategies, students develop the intellectual autonomy expected of them as they prepare for college.