The University of Massachusetts Amherst
Workshop and Field Trip/Craft Session Selection

Writing Labs

Juniper Young Writers Online 2020 Writing Labs:

At the heart of the online program are writing labs, which meet every day, Monday-Friday, from 1:30-3:30pm EST. This will be ten total hours of live, interactive instruction with a cohort of 6-10 passionate writers from around the world. Labs will be synchronous, dynamic and participatory. Young writers will explore forms, subjects, styles, and modes of writing in addition to giving and receiving feedback with peers. The work will be complex and at a college level, allowing participants to dive deeper into explorations of writing as they develop their own work.

Writing Labs are included in The Full Program only
 


Reclaiming the Self

Taught by: Mark Bias

"These poems do not live: It's a sad diagnosis." - Sylvia Plath, "Stillborn"

In this multi-genre lab, we will construct our work with pieces of our past by chiseling it down to its most honest and rawest forms. We control the narrative, it does not control itself. It does not make us who we are, rather we make it what it is: an art form. In this workshop, we look to the writers who helped/are helping forge the path: Sylvia Plath, Hieu Minh Nguyen, Warsan Shire, Arundhati Roy, Michael Dickman, Esmé Weijun Wang, Claudia Rankine, etc.

In reading work across the genre spectrum, we will focus on what forms work best for our narratives, how these writers are able to fine tune their structures while in the midst of articulating memory. Class activities will involve, but are not limited to: meditation, safe space discussions, ten minute stream of consciousness, class-wide workshopping, erasure, object inspiration, and genre swapping.

The goal of the workshop is to construct a physical shape of our past; see it, hold it, and reclaim ourselves in the moments that we have gained distance from.
 


Swarm

Taught by: Sarah Coates

We have this idea of writers as solitary figures clacking away in the dark, slumped over crumpled tear-soaked manuscripts. But, once in a while, when we come out of the woodwork, collaboration sparks and we do things together that we couldn’t do alone. Writing collaboratively, working in concert with other makers, is like writing in a creative updraft. In this lab we will write and create in tandem with our peers. Writing alongside multiple voices and being exposed to new forms or ways of making empowers risk-taking, lifting us out of the safety of our creative shells. Collaboration doesn’t mean that we’re all beholden to one plot, one arc, or one way, voice, form, or mode of writing. It just means that our writing will be energetically bound, reactive, thoughtfully tethered. It could be a braid of poems and stories, it could be a novella with each student penning a character, or it could be a multi-media genre-busting interdisciplinary collaboration that lives outside of normal long form terminology. In class we will ‘try on’ different collaborative processes including game-based play-to-create writing exercises, collective drafting, subtle impact, self-collaboration and Frankenstein’s Monster. We will collaborate generously, ultimately writing a cohesive piece. Think of it as the mushroom blossom from the mycelium of our writing. We will experiment with prose, poetry, and hybrid forms. The end product might look like a large-scale (but necessarily short) D&D game, a type of variable narrative storytelling like a choose-your-own adventure, or a compilation of intertwining individual pieces. Whatever we make, we make together.
 


Houston, we have a problem; it is the trips we take

Taught by: Julio Cesar Diaz  

"This laboratory is sure to rival even Dr. Frankenstein's own workshop." - little old me

In this writing lab, we’ll have to decide for ourselves: what is life, no life, half-life, even inorganic life; what does it mean to live or to be too much; how can we learn empathy by feeling nothing; and how does emptiness pave a path for fullness? As a cohort, we’ll read works that focus on the responsibility and, at times, the burden of being. How can you exist in or out or beside the body? 

Over the course of the week, we’ll be writing experimental pieces with different bodies: poetry, fiction, and hybrid forms. Everyday we’ll unspool our thoughts as we inquire into what form following function means, the effects of collaborative writing, and the different ways to move throughout. 

Class activities can include: engagement with visual art; daydreaming; class discussions; written & oral feedback; imagining the spirit and body; creating personal dictionaries; interacting with suppressed emotions; participating in the Troxler effect; homolinguistic translations; writing lists of list of lists; meditative writing; thinking of the insignificant to make it significant; and cloud watching. 
 


Writing for Justice: Social and Emotional Change

Taught by: Vida James

Climate change, immigration, Trumpism, black lives matter -  we are living in many political complexities, and who will tell the stories of our time? Writing is a social act, one that reinforces or challenges our world. It is inherently political. We will explore justice in microsim - in the stories we tell ourselves and to others. Writing also lets us express ourselves, to see and feel and process, to bring about emotion, and so it can change us, and the world around us. How does writing emotion create social change? How does our own emotional process change us as people? 

In this lab we will look at the dualities of writing - the inner worlds and the outer worlds, how writing can create justice in society, in communities, and in ourselves. Activities will include prompts around the political use of genre like social realism, fabulism, and speculative fiction. We will think of emotion as a catalyst, and explore writings by authors who grapple with social and emotional change, like James Baldwin, Audre Lorde, Jhumpa Lahiri, and Tommy Orange.
 


Collection, Collaboration, Collage 

Taught by: Laura S. Marshall 

People think writing is a silent, solitary endeavour, but writers are actually in constant conversation with the people, places, and things in the world. We gather snippets of dialogue, strange ideas and images, and scintillating new words, and then arrange them artfully, juxtaposing and realigning their mysteries to make myriad new meanings. In this lab, we will explore various strategies and techniques for collection, collaboration, and collage: ways to find and play with images, feelings, sounds, and meanings. You'll generate your own trove of raw materials from which you can build new stories, poems, plays, or hybrids -- whatever form speaks to you, as a writer in the world. You will also have an opportunity to share your work with each other in a supportive, encouraging environment that will help you better understand the beauty in your own work.
 


Myth, Fantasy & Afrofuturism 

Taught by: Yvette Lisa Ndlovu

Magic, monsters, and the marvels of time travel. Dragons and distant planets. Enchanted forests and flying carpets. In this lab, we will focus on the myths and traditions that writers use to invent their own enchanted tales in new and exciting ways. We will experiment with the myths from our own cultures, traditions, and hometowns and use them to construct new worlds. Some lab sessions will be dedicated to Afrofuturism, a subgenre of fantasy/science fiction that uses African mythology. Lab activities will include finding a myth from your hometown & crafting a new story based on that myth, the retelling of a popular fairytale, inventing a new technology or turning something boring & ordinary such as a pencil into the uncanny in a story. We will craft works that will carry us on journeys to lands of myth and magic, stretching our imaginations and challenging ourselves to reimage the very foundations of our own world.
 


Spectral Spaces

Taught by: Alex Terrell 

"There is nothing that chains [ghosts] to the places where their bodies have fallen. They are free to go, but still they confine themselves, held in place by their looking." - Lily Saylor, from I am the Pretty Thing that Lives in the House

What haunts you? What obsesses your mind? Is it those who have died or those who are still living that haunt your steps? In this Writing Lab we will consider what makes something haunted, so bring your ghostly tales, your creepy memories, and your freaky encounters. We’ll see what lurks just beyond what we can see. What is around the corner holding its breath? What makes chills go up our spines? 

We will write about people and places that stay with us long after we’re gone from them. We’ll write about creatures, things that stalk around in the dark, ghouls, haints, witches, monsters, doppelgangers and nightwalkers. 

We will explore how voice, images, film, and prose can lend itself to writing about the things that haunt us. Our Writing Lab will be largely generative, but there will be opportunities to workshop short pieces. Writing exercises will include writing an entire story on the back of a napkin and writing yourself into and then out of a haunted dwelling. Will you be the one haunting or the one being haunted? Come find out.
 


Exploring the Body as a Vessel for the Voice

Taught by: Dāshaun Washington

What is language? What is a body? What is a voice? This writing lab will explore the answers to these questions and illustrate how they are all facets of the same jewel. In this lab, we will learn how to take the literary techniques of poetry and employ them in all facets of writing. We will break down the anatomy of a line and explore how the enjambment of a line expands its depth. How does a line of a poem relate to a paragraph of a story? What can a short story learn from a sonnet? In this lab, we will explore those answers.

During this lab, we will closely read a diverse group of skillful contemporary poets whose writings have served as hosts of some of the greatest voices that poetry has birthed. We will study how these poets further the message of their writing through experimentation with structure and how they use enjambment and the synergy of form and language to challenge the tangibility of the subjects addressed. We will determine what techniques empower the voices of these poets to haunt the minds of their readers and we will cultivate our own practices to teach us to do the same. Through literary exploration and creative writing, we will purposefully shape a body from which the voice of our writing will speak, cry, sing, dance, and shout.