The faculty support was crucial to my experience—it led me to feel respected as an artist and comfortable to express myself.
This experience impacted me forever. It made me realize there are other writers like me. I loved being able to connect and share my work. I made such wonderful friends.
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.
My workshop leader didn't make workshop feel like a classroom—he geared every meeting as a way to explore our individual writing styles and grow as a cooperative writing community.
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.
Juniper offered the most amazing community. It was incredible to be surrounded by other nerdy, strangely dressed people who didn't so much as question the idea of listening to your characters tell their own stories or anything else "weird" like that. I felt so welcomed and wasn't at all afraid to share and discuss my work.
Q&As and Craft Sessions
Q&As with faculty and writers in residence from the concurrent Juniper Institute for adults allow participants to explore the creative process and writer’s life with world-renowned authors such as National Book award winning poet and memoirist Mark Doty, Pulitzer Prize finalist and fiction writer Joy Williams, and Guggenheim recipient and poet Dara Wier.
"Focus" craft sessions with Young Writer faculty examine aspects of craft and imagination of particular interest to beginning writers. Recent topics have included:
“[mis]Understanding and [mis]Translation”
“Can I Get a Story Out of That?: Using Truth to Create Fiction”
“Developing Your Imagination”
“The Art of Long Sentences (In the Age of Very Short Forms)”
“What Gives You Away: Stories the Body Tells”
“Hip Hop Will Make Your Ears Bud”
“A Man Walks Into a Bar: Using Jokes to Better Understand Surprise in Fiction”
"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:
“Thinking About ‘About’” (Smith College Art Museum)
“I Feel Weird: Language in Unexpected Places” (Amherst College Natural History Museum)
“In the Outside: Telephonic Translation, Gravity Making, and Other Flying Objects” (Flying Object)
“Mastering the Art of the Poem-Letter” (Emily Dickenson 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 love all of the books I made! It made me think of better ways to present a story, and how art can contribute to a tale’s success.
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).
Participants experience the transformative power of literature presented live each evening as the acclaimed faculty and writers in residence of the concurrent adult Institute—including Mark Doty, Joy Williams, Dara Wier, and Anthony Doerr—read aloud from their work. 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. It was so great to hear writing in the writer’s voice. They really helped me focus on sound, and after each one I returned to my room and wrote. It was great to be exposed to such beautiful work.
Res Life & Recreational Activities
The Juniper Residence Director and specially-trained Program Assistants (advanced UMass undergraduates studying the literary arts) provide participants with an introduction to college residential life, day-to-day support, and fun activities. 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.
My pod was a group of crazy-awesome writers from all over America, sharing ideas and constant laughter.
Your pod consists of the people with whom you’ll be sharing your work first, and the people who will give you critiques and help you grow. They are the people whose numbers you’ll be adding to your phone by the end of the week when you’re hugging them all goodbye and gushing about how much you’ll miss them.
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 am so sad to leave! Juniper strongly affected my writing and my life. I made wonderful, admirable friends and produced strong, bold work. I have learned to try new things, be unafraid, and always, always, always keep writing!