The faculty support was crucial to my experience—it led me to feel respected as an artist and comfortable to express myself.
The Juniper Institute for Young Writers' curriculum provides a wide array of opportunities for high school students to write, read, explore and discuss ideas, and learn from accomplished writers. College credit is available.
At the heart of the Institute are daily workshops in either poetry or fiction. Working with faculty and a core group of peers, participants generate new work, revise work in progress, and form a supportive community of young writers committed to sharing and receiving feedback on their writing. Enrollment is limited so that each writer has ample opportunity to present his or her work.
Before Juniper, I was worried what others would think of my writing and now I have gained a more open-minded perspective and willingness to experiment with different styles and levels of complexity within my writing.
"Focus" craft sessions with Young Writer faculty examine aspects of craft and imagination of particular interest to beginning writers. Recent topics have included:
“OOPS: The Aesthetics of Mistakes, Misunderstandings, and Chance”
“Can I Get a Story Out of That?: Using Truth to Create Fiction”
“How’s It Lookin’? Playing with Perspective and Taking a Second Look”
"Field" craft sessions are paired with museum tours that occur mid-week. These sessions integrate the museum experience and act as field research for fodder brought back to the classroom. Recent topics have included:
“I Feel Weird: Language in Unexpected Places” (Amherst College Natural History Museum)
“Ready, Setting, Go!” (Flying Object)
“Mastering the Art of the Poem-Letter” (Emily Dickinson Museum)
The craft session was my absolute favorite. When we started off, I thought it was weird, but we’re writers, everything we do is weird. I actually wrote some of my favorite pieces during the week in my craft session.
Through hands-on studio courses in bookmaking and performance, participants explore avenues of creativity and experiment with new ways to share their writing.
I was in the bookmaking course and I was especially proud of the accordion book I made in it. The course informed me about a more experimental, physical way of combining words and images. I will, in the future, think of my writing in more ways than simply text on a page.
I was in the “Performance Matters!” studio course. I liked listening to other group members read their work and seeing how pieces improved with each performance. I think I understand more about performing now, and how best to communicate with an audience (visual and auditory).
Readings and Q&As
Each evening, participants experience the transformative power of literature read aloud by the acclaimed faculty and writers in residence of the concurrent adult Institute—including James Tate, Joy Williams, Dara Wier, and Ron Hansen. Follow-up Q&A sessions allow participants to explore the creative process and writer's life with these world-renowned authors. You can find the reading schedule here.
The readings were INCREDIBLE!! Mark Doty shocked me, frightened me, amazed me. All readings were fantastic.
I loved the readings. They’re like bedtime stories that you can’t fall asleep to but still dream about.
Res Life & Recreational Activities
The Juniper Residence Directors and specially-trained Program Assistants (advanced UMass undergraduates studying the literary arts) provide participants with an introduction to college residential life and day-to-day support. PAs facilitate morning and evening free-writing sessions, recreational activities, and field trips to area museums. As members of close-knit “pods,” participants develop intense and inspiring relationships with their workshop leader, their PA, and each other.
Pods are like a family of writers. We live together, eat together, and write together. The great thing about having a pod is the access to a caring, honest group of young writers that can share and critique each other’s work.
Pod members are your lifeline, your group of friends, your critics, and your fans.
Our pod was really a tribe, with each person contributing something wonderful that we didn’t even know we needed.
Workshops and craft sessions are led by top MFA candidates from the renowned University of Massachusetts MFA Program for Poets and Writers who design curricula especially for the Institute setting. Studio courses are facilitated by artists and experienced teachers at the forefront of their fields. Additionally, participants interact with the acclaimed faculty and writers in residence of the concurrent Juniper Institute for adults through Q&A sessions and evening readings.
I never knew writing could be so unconventional until Juniper, so over the course of the week I’ve written prose and even dabbled in some poetry. Changing my writing style gave me a new love for writing because my old style had gotten boring and stale. I’m so thankful for this experience!
I feel this year has helped bridge the gap between my prose and my poetry. I’ve written several pieces that dwell in both worlds and I think I want to explore how poetry can inform prose in my writing and vice versa.
Zoe taught us so much about writing and the world. I learned to violate expectations and I have come away hungry to read more widely. It was an eye-opening experience.