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Workshop and Field Trip/Craft Session Selection

Descriptions of Workshops and Field Trips/Craft Sessions are provided as examples of our curriculum. Summer 2018 Workshops and Field Trips/Craft Sessions will be posted when available.


Juniper Institute for Young Writers 2017 Workshops:

Writing to Move

Taught by: Christopher Ayala

What matters to you can only matter if you make it important. Your writing strives to take your perspective and show your reader why it needs to be said. This is the start. What we are doing here is making ourselves better at saying. By working on our voices, we can say what we feel most. We can make others, too. In our time, we are going to develop practices that keep us progressing. We will share with each other. We will discover methods to keep us moving.

This is our workshop. I want you to go full throttle and hit the wall. We’ll gauge what sticks and suss out how it can become yours more.

Into the Wilderness—& Back Again: An Expedition for Scavengers and Alchemists of Words

Taught by: Andy Nicole Bowers

This workshop is an experiment in becoming, in the immortal words of Henry James, “one of the people on whom nothing is lost.” We’ll practice noticing, curating, and cultivating the seeds of written art, lingering especially in places that might at first strike us as unlikely sources of inspiration—think textbooks on obscure topics, “failed” translations, and troves of curious objects. In the first part of the week, you’ll unleash your inner hunter-gatherer by venturing outside your customary writing practices—and the walls of our classroom—to locate and capture instances of language that stir you. Next, you’ll interrogate the raw material you’ve amassed: What happens when you live with your stockpile? What is activated or illuminated? What connections, clusters, arrangements, logics, and narratives suggest themselves to you? In the latter part of the week, you’ll be invited to pursue your unique interests and concerns as a writer by using the generative work we’ve done together to assemble or suggest a couple of more polished pieces on which you will receive in-depth feedback from the workshop.

Writers Writing: How to Construct a Writing Life

Taught by: Joe Crescente

Who are we as writers? What do we as writers want to do? These will be the guiding questions as we explore, debate, and ponder what it means to be a writer in today’s world. In this creative writing workshop we will write, read, reflect, share, revise, discuss, and read (aloud). Our goal is to develop a community of writers and thinkers that see writing as a social act and texts as places of connection, challenges, contestation, and kinship. We will build our skills in storytelling, work on honing creative and authentic voices, and do honest and deep reflection about what we have to say. Most importantly, everybody will go home with an action plan: the hope is that this workshop will help you embark on a life-long journey spent meaningfully with words.

Locating Inspiration Within Places Seen and Felt

Taught by: Amanda Dahill-Moore

Writing always happens as a response—but to what?

This workshop is animated by the question of what places, spaces, histories, and bodies you are in relationship to when you write. We will use many approaches to explore the intersections of self and place. Curiosity will be our guide as we traverse the physical, emotional, conscious, and unconscious realms that we respond to in our writing. In this workshop we will be more engaged with questioning how and why we write than creating highly polished works. To explore the role of place in writing, we will write from many different vantage points. We will sometimes leave the physical classroom, but just as importantly, we will stay—underscoring the ways in which place is also internal. Each day will begin with writing prompts that suggest, invoke, or complicate a relationship to place. Our time will be divided between generating new work, responding to one another, and interacting with other mediums that create or respond to place (visual and performing arts, literary works, and physical spaces that create certain expectations).

The Reader's Journey

Taught by: Otto Leinsdorf

How can one travel so far and all the while sit still? With the help of a poem, a story, or a book, of course. Every chapter, page, paragraph, sentence, and line of verse delivers its own thrust to the reader’s journey. In this weeklong workshop we’ll focus on movement. Yes, we’ll consider the movement of starting somewhere and arriving at an endpoint—narrative arcs—but mostly we’ll dwell on the in-between, the careful choices we writers make along the way to deliver a reader safely at a destination but somehow altered, or even transformed. As we write and read short stories together, we’ll focus on the movements that happen between scene, summary, and dialogue as well as the movements within each. Similarly, in our poetry, we’ll focus on the turns, twists, and shifts that images and ideas undergo as they develop chronologically, by cause and effect, by free association, or even by nonsense and absurdity. We’ll notice how tiny sentence-level and even word-level choices speed up, slow-down, or redirect entirely our motion. We’ll practice all of these strategies in our own writing, find new ones, and thus create all kinds of journeys for ourselves and each other. By the end of the week you’ll leave with a small trove of motion and speed experiments—your own stories and poems—and at least one slightly longer piece that has undergone some revision.

Word Coven: Rituals in Hybrid Forms

Taught by: Elizabeth Mikesch

The way we choose our words can alter perception. We can render out-of-body experiences through synesthetic word combos, through rendering vivid scenes and weird ideas. It’s a power to be able to lull others into the rhythms of our visions, to sync with them. Our readers will superimpose their own impressions over what we create, and in that there’s magic. To make a reader, listener, or audience member pay attention, to make our writing resonate with them, we have to be super sucked into what we’re trying to say: obsessed, even. Our aim for our time together is to initiate ourselves into a life of writing rituals in order to captivate our audience, but most of all ourselves.

We will become a word coven! When this word coven leaves Juniper, we’ll return to our lives at home practicing our enchantment with language on our pages, and we’ll be able to share our secret to hybridized writing with friends and newcomers. We’ll pull this off through working on generating tons of beginnings to return to, by collaborating and looking at visual, aural, and textural art with words, through interviewing one another, through writing statements about our aims and aesthetics-- our codas to live by as creative people, and finally we’ll make our own rituals.

This class is collaborative and multi-genre, and it encourages discussion, suggestions, plans for the future, and open conversations about where you are at as a creative person today, who you want to be, and most importantly, why that is. Forms we’ll use: lists, monosyllabic prose, mantras, long poems, exquisite corpse, emoji translations, guided meditations, erasures, videos, voicemail poems, ars poetica, writer’s statements, re-told fairytales, cut-ups, rorschach, lyrics, scripts, interviews. We’ll also have access to a massive library of books, zines, projects, readings, settings, and sites to help inspire our rituals in generating, writing, editing, and casting our own fortune as writers.

To prepare: bring in a 1 page selection of writing that you might say hits you in the guts. Teach us why. What can we learn from it? Where is its source of power?

Dream Worlds

Taught by: Davis Wang

We write like we dream. You might even say that writing is an act of dreaming on the page. Our writing takes us to unexpected places, where we meet strange characters who seem somehow familiar. What do they say to us and what do we say back? Do we go somewhere with them, or do we continue on our own? In this workshop, each of us will explore our own dream world. We won’t stop to worry whether or not it makes any sense, we’ll just keep exploring the imaginary landscape and see what we can uncover. Inside of each of us there are vast territories still unexplored. My hope for this workshop is that each of us might wander around some small section of our mental world and observe the strange flora and fauna that live there. This workshop is for those of you who feel like going on an adventure in your own mind.

Night Visions & Daymares: Writing the Everyday Weird

Taught by: Lindsey Webb

What keeps you up at night? What do you see out of the corner of your eye?

Sometimes you can’t trust your senses.

In this workshop, we’ll practice writing to the shock of the everyday. We will aspire to Emily Dickinson’s definition of writing: “if I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry.” Through our writing and reading, we’ll keep an eye to the weird by leaving our heads open, so to speak—we’ll try making what is familiar to us unfamiliar, in an effort to develop a sustainable, lifelong writing practice. We’ll keep notes and fragments, experiment with collage and erasure, and create writing methods and rituals. We’ll try breaking the traditional boundaries of poetry and fiction. We will write under unique (sometimes improbable) constraints, and give ourselves permission to fail. And we will practice gaining new perspectives on our own writing and current practice through responding to our peers' work. Our ultimate goal in our short time together will be to expand the possibilities of our own writing.


Juniper Institute for Young Writers: Field Trips and Craft Sessions 2017

Chrononauts, Ghosts, and Poets: Memorializing Objects and Moods in Poetry & Prose

Field Trip to: The Emily Dickinson Museum

Taught by: Nicole Erhardt and Alexandra Itzi

Museums are a means of time travel. Or rather, they are an attempt at making time stand still, to preserve objects and recreate what once was. Like museums, writing can also attempt to still time, to hold a moment on the page, to be returned to over and over. In this craft session, we will think of writing as curation. We’ll read poems and excerpts that explore questions of material existence and permanence, asking the following questions: What makes an object worth memorializing, either in a museum or in print? How does our writing gather and preserve objects in order to inspire a mood, push forward a plot, or develop our characters? What purpose does the inanimate have in our lives and writing? To explore our own relationships with memory and things, please bring an object that is significant to you.

Once at Emily Dickinson’s homestead, we will walk through rooms she stood in, observe furniture she reclined on, and be occupied by resonance of objects and their memories. What have these walls witnessed, whose hands have held these books? We will ponder the implications of the distinction between the “real” and the “replicated” within the museum itself. After the tour at the homestead, we’ll travel to Emily’s gravesite where we’ll consider the objects other visitors have left her (a pair of black stilettos, letter scraps, bits of nature) and perhaps leave some mementos of our own.

The Meditative Writer

Field Trip to: The Peace Pagoda

Taught by: Davis Wang & Otto Leinsdorf

As writers, we deal in thoughts. But as many of us know, the experience of the writer can be a tortured one. In this craft session, we will try to forge a peaceful relationship with our thoughts by practicing meditation in a variety of different forms. Broadly speaking, meditation is the art of living in the present moment. To get in touch with the present, we'll ask you to direct your full attention to the sounds around you, the sensations in your body, your emotions, your movement, your interaction with another person, and your breath. Each meditation will be a springboard for a writing exercise designed to take advantage of a new perspective. By tuning out everything except our immediate experience, we will narrow the focus of our writing practice, and see what new opportunities emerge.

After our craft session, we'll visit the Peace Pagoda in Leverett, a site of Buddhist spiritual practice. There, you will be given the opportunity to learn from the monks, meditate, and commune with nature. We will see what it's like to be a meditative writer out in the world. We hope that the combined experience of the craft session and the Peace Pagoda will provide you with a new mental approach when you sit down to face the blank page.

Museum of Metamorphoses

Field Trip to: The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art

Taught by: Chris Ayala & Andy Nicole Bowers

As writers, we aim to populate our work with characters who seem to “come to life,” but how do we write into existence beings whose experiences and perspectives bear no resemblance to our own? In this craft session, we’ll examine the dramatic monologue as it appears in poetry and prose and draw on guided meditation, performance art, and the principles of method acting to invent--and then inhabit--personae who lie beyond our comfort zones. The metamorphoses that begin in the classroom will continue after lunch at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, home of The Very Hungry Caterpillar, where we’ll remain in character as we tour a series of “Transformation Stations” that will provide occasions for us to try out the eyes, ears, and voices of our newly minted creations and journal about our discoveries. By the end of the day, we’ll each have our own stockpile of character-building strategies and a wealth of raw material to fuel future writing adventures. Please keep in mind that immersing ourselves in the characters we develop in our craft session will require a willingness to risk absurdity in public—adventurous personalities encouraged!

Topophila and Idiosyncrasy: Some Coordinates to Map a Place

Field Trip to: Montague village historic district

Taught by: Amanda Dahill-Moore & Joe Crescente

What is place? How does a specific locale transform from a merely physical space into something that glimmers with its own unique spirit? And how does the tone, character, and mood of a place make itself known to an observer?

In the classroom we will discuss four components that we think are crucial to evoking the unique qualities of place. Through various mediums we will then examine how a diverse array of artists and writers approach these key elements: tone, symbolism, detail, and character.

Prepared with this map of sorts, we will then journey out to the historic village of Montague. Here, writers will use their preferred forms and styles to uncover the elements named above, as we explore the town through specific, resonant sites.

Walk the Line

Field Trip to: The Robert Frost Trail

Taught by: Lindsey Webb & Elizabeth Mikesch

Sometimes we go for a walk to “clear our head” or to solve a problem; sometimes we go for a walk to get lost, to be confronted with the new and unexpected. We walk, too, in others’ shoes to feel through their experiences. Does the walk focus our attention or does it scatter it?

We’ll look at how other writers have approached “going on a walk,” and we’ll practice some. For this craft session, we’ll look at a wide range of walk poems and the figure of the flâneur (which means stroller, lounger, saunterer, or loafer). We’ll look at the relationship between the walk and the poetic line by reading longer and shorter poems, watching videos, reading performances, and learning about dérives. Artists like Janet Cardiff, Joshua Edwards, Anri Sala, Robert Walser, Guy Debord, Fluxus, Eileen Myles, and Frank O’Hara will inspire us to create our own psychogeographies and to rewrite maps to make different meaning out of place and the body’s movement in it.

Then, we’ll head to the Robert Frost trail, where we’ll practice composition both stationary and in transit and think about how our bodies and our senses can contribute to or alter our experience of moving through the world. Some activities we’ll try are writing maps, walking to practice line breaks and enjambment, and creating symbolic paces. You’ll be given a guidebook of activities to help you stray as you make your own constraints to the walk, the drift, and the meander both in the body and on the page.