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Founded in 2004, the Juniper Initiative for Literary Arts and Action engages the community at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, in Western Massachusetts, and beyond with outstanding and diverse literary programming and provides opportunities for MFA candidates to develop professional skills, participate in critical issues of the day, and cultivate a network of professional and academic colleagues. As a national focal point and regional home for literary art, the Juniper Initiative offers a dynamic range of programs including:

Visiting Writers Series


This world-class reading series is free and open to the public, presenting emerging and established writers of poetry and fiction.  The series provides students and the community opportunities to interact with living writers.

Juniper Literary Festival / Admitted Students Weekend


This weekend aims to introduce our newly admitted Poets and Writers to the vibrant literary community here at UMass and the Pioneer Valley as a whole, with panels and readings featuring current students and alumni. 

Juniper Summer Writing Institute


The Juniper Summer Writing Institute is a week-long workshop/ conference hosted by the MFA for Poets & Writers on the UMass Amherst campus. The Institute encourages adult participants to explore the creative process and develop new approaches to the craft of writing through workshops in poetry, fiction, and memoir; craft sessions; and readings. MFA candidates can participate in the adult program as workshop assistants, scholarship readers, and more.

Juniper Institute for Young Writers and Juniper Young Writers Online


Designed for students in grades 8–12, these programs offer workshops in prose, poetry and mixed media, as well as craft sessions, field trips, and participant readings. Events are hosted on the UMass Amherst campus during the summer giving teens an exceptional pre-college experience. Online creative writing programming happens during the winter and summer months.

Graduate student opportunities with the Summer Institute include positions as Directors’ Assistants and Creative Writing Instructors. Directors Assistants work on both programs and gain insight and experience in the administration and production of successful literary programming. MFA students also apply for positions to teach in the Young Writer program, gaining experience in developing mixed genre curricula and working with high school students.

Writers @ Work


This professional development series explores the wide range of careers in which writers and other artists apply their skills, pursue their passions, and earn their livings. Here students gain unparalleled access to a diverse group of professionals including agents and editors. 

Juniper Literary Prizes in Fiction, Poetry, and Creative Nonfiction

For poetry, the judges award one prize for a first book of poems, and they select a second winner for an author who has been published previously. For fiction, the judges choose a novel and a collection of short stories. One prize is awarded for a work of creative nonfiction, including (but not limited to) essays, biography, literary journalism, or memoir.

MFA candidates read for these nationally recognized annual book prizes.