Craft Sessions

During Craft Sessions, Creative Writing Instructors go in-depth on a particular element of craft, and participants expand their writing knowledge by exploring different topics and prompts. Residential and online participants will have the opportunity to choose several of these sessions as electives, based on their interests and areas in which they wish to grow. Each session offers instruction and time for writers to put elements of craft into practice.

Craft Sessions are included in the Juniper Institute for Young Writers and Juniper Young Writers Online.

Below are the Craft Sessions we will offer in summer 2024! Please note that we have different Craft Sessions between our residential and online programs.

Residential program Craft Sessions

Juniper Institute for Young Writers, July 29–August 2

And then, and then, and then: Pushing Ourselves Beyond the Scene

Taught by: Bec Bell-Gurwitz

This craft session will help participants generate multiple options for finishing a scene, move plot forward, or even generate a new narrative. I will start first with my own scene example. Then I will solicit ideas from participants about what could happen next. We list anything that comes to mind, no matter how fantastical to move beyond a “conscious” or editorial brain. After we have practiced together with my scene, I will have participants reread preselected scenes from their own work and write 12 different versions of what might happen next. We will then talk about what elements make a good scene and I will have participants share how they might incorporate the ideas they generated. Participants will pick 2 of their scenes to expand on. If there is time, I will have volunteers share what they wrote.

Creating Multi-Dimensional Non-White Characters

Taught by: Nasira Watts

In its 2021 TV show adaptation, Invincible makes its romantic lead Amber, Black, despite her comic book original being White. This wouldn’t be a problem if the only change Amber underwent when “becoming” Black was a shift in skin tone, not in personhood or characterization, though the writers may argue their name dropping Ta-Nehisi Coates was enough.

This craft session, Creating Multi-Dimensional Non-White Characters: a presentation that seeks to move past poor remedies to “representation matters'' like Amber, and further into accurate, counterhistory informed representation as seen in the writing of Octavia Butler or television shows like Insecure. The session will consist of a brief survey of researched examples of depth filled non-white characters–written by both white and non white authors for comparison purposes–an explanation of what it means to center the bottom always, and a guide on some easy what-not-to-do’s when truly accommodating non-white characters. Utilizing media like Euphoria, pop icons like Doja Cat, and other current culture will assist in making an unnecessarily touchy topic accessible, digestible, and a safe learning experience for all!

Discovering Poetic and Prosaic Forms in Nature

Taught by: Larry Flynn

“Many structures that recur in texts coincide with fundamental patterns in nature,” writes Jane Alison in Meander, Spiral, Explode. Using this principle, we will craft poetic or prosaic structures guided by organic life forms around us while taking a walk to the central pond on campus. We will pick natural structures and write to mirror the natural forms. For example, we may write a sentence as a river—one which flows, rushes, and trickles. We may consider how we could write a paragraph that intentionally gets “stuck in the mud” or “branches” into tangents. At the end of this generative craft session, we will have developed new ways of engaging both nature and our writing, transforming our vision of structure, line, propulsion, and other craft elements.

An Exercise in Dissociation

Taught by: Ekaterina Agniatsvet

Students will spend 15 minutes writing a confessional letter or diary entry.
Then, students will spend 10 minutes choosing compelling phrases or words from the letter and compiling them into a new, context-less document.
These piles of phrases will then be anonymously assigned to another participant in the craft session. Students will be asked to generate a piece of writing based on the phrases they have received. This writing will last for 20-25 minutes.
In the last 10-15 minutes, everyone will be asked to share at least an excerpt of their writing. The sharing is a critical aspect because it will allow the original diary/letter-writer to privately hear their experiences being re-imagined/re-interpreted by a new person.
Students will be encouraged to reflect on the empowering potential of using biographical memories/images to invent completely new circumstances.

Poetry Decks

Taught by: Riley Jones

All writing requires the play of a little bit of chance. In this craft session we will lean into the generative possibilities of intuition and coincidence by making poetry decks-- decks of fifty cards that can be used again and again in any number of ways to divine new inspiration. Pulling from the dictionary, the radio, our memories, our dreams, the chance organization and composition of the room itself, among other sources to make our personal decks, participants will leave the session with fifty cards containing an infinite number of poetic possibilities.

Online program Craft Sessions

Juniper Young Writers Online, August 5–August 9

Characters & Connection

Taught by: Zahra Lahiji

What draws you to root for a character? What is it about them that incites emotion and connection, that makes you want to keep reading about them and even, sometimes, inspires fanfiction, spinoffs, and art?

In this craft session, we’ll focus on how characters come to be, what elements of a character cause them to be likeable, dislikeable, or simply uninteresting. Looking at examples of well-known characters such as Katniss Everdeen, Percy Jackson, Hermione Granger, Tanjiro Kamado and more, we will consider exactly why they inspire attachment and attention, and how to create characters that go beyond concepts, becoming real people.

Observation or; How to look at the world around us and bring it to life

Taught by: Nathaniel Pinkham

What does the world actually look like? Is it all just geometry and colors or is there something deeper going on that we as writers can tap into? How can we capture the living, breathing beauty of the world outside the classroom?

In this craft session, we will engage with all of our five senses in an attempt to examine the world around us and try to find ways of describing the world that are both fresh and exciting.

Spiraling into Detail

Taught by: Phoebe Glick

We all spiral all the time. In this craft session, we will channel our spirals toward a particular detail in our writing or thinking: a concept, idea, image, scene, or even a word. By spiraling deeper, we will more richly and sensationally render it in our creative projects. We will first select a detail to work with, then spend time losing ourselves in that detail, exploring it through all five senses. We will then create radical descriptions of the detail through both speaking and writing. This session will unearth the immense potential energy in the seemingly mundane, and help us practice this level of critical focus, attention, and commitment with all aspects of our writing process.

Tarot for Writers and Fools

Taught by: Joan Tate

What can the centuries old occult practice of card reading lend to our writing and to our minds? Where can divination really take us? What will the cards say? This craft session delves into Tarot as a generative and introspective practice. Students will get a crash course in three card Tarot spreads and how to interpret, elaborate, and generate ideas for plot, character, and poetry all through a traditional Tarot deck. Students will learn how Tarot acts as an aesthetic source of inspiration as well as how aspects of ritual can deepen a writer’s practices.
Note: Your own deck is not expected or required (though it is more than welcome!).

We Start at The End

Taught by: Richie Wills

I always know the ending; that’s where I start. – Toni Morrison

In this craft session, we will delve into the art of working backward, using the endings of stories as a compass to chart narrative beginnings. We will look at endings by writers such as Toni Morrison, Octavia Butler, Franz Kafka, and Jhumpa Lahiri, amongst others. Whether you're a seasoned writer or just starting, unlock your storytelling potential as endings ignite the creative process. The session combines an interactive discussion, reading, and a writing exercise to empower you to think about how the end can also be a new beginning.