For the fifth summer in a row, the University of Virginia will hold its esteemed Young Writers Workshop on the campus of Sweet Briar College. Established in 1982, it is the country’s flagship summer residential workshop for teenage writers.
From June 19-July 22, the intensive camp will help rising ninth-graders through college freshmen hone their writing skills through studio workshops in graphic fiction and nonfiction, fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry, songwriting, and screen- and playwriting.
The Young Writers’ schedule takes advantage of Sweet Briar’s extraordinary setting, its related summer arts programs and its sister organization, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. The VCCA offers an open house featuring artists in residence at the Mt. San Angelo campus; and Sweet Briar coffeehouses bring together artists from the YWW and the College’s Blue Ridge Summer Institute for Young Artists, which takes place June 19-July 10.
The schedule also features treks to the nearby Blue Ridge Mountains and local historic sites, program alumni artists in readings and performances, literary salons and open mics. Everyone’s original work is showcased at the end of the workshop during the Writer’s Café, the program’s capstone event.
The camp is divided into two parts — a two-week session June 19-July 1, and a three-week session July 3-22.
Session I is designed for rising ninth- through rising 12th-graders with a range of writing experiences — those new to study in a specific genre as well as those seeking to build their existing repertoire. The session features intensive workshops, labs, readings, faculty conferencing, independent writing, publication and performance.
Session II includes all Session I features, as well as visiting artists, the semi-formal banquet, and in-depth genre reading and writing with emphasis on technique, revision and the road to publication. Rising 10th- through rising college freshmen are eligible for this slightly more advanced session, which requires commitment to revision and pushing the limits of the genre.
Published professional writers who are also master teachers will lead the workshops, with trained counselors who are both writers and teachers managing the camp’s extracurricular activities and residence life.
The studio workshops “evolve through the dynamic principles of play, invention, response, revision, performance and publication,” according to the program’s website. “Participants learn strategies to invent, develop and revise material using the writer’s most essential tools — language, imagination, craft, sight and insight. They conference with instructors and peer writers. They examine contemporary artists’ work. They become more discerning readers.”
Going beyond the intensive studio workshops, genre labs use a variety of inventive techniques to encourage and increase students’ experimentation. Elective mini-courses include visiting artist forums; related arts explorations in photography, drawing, dance, music and drama; excursions into popular culture forms like spoken-word poetry and alternative video; and playwriting-team marathons.
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