The University of Massachusetts Amherst

Workshops and Field Trips/Craft Sessions

Descriptions of Workshops and Field Trips/Craft Sessions are provided as examples of our curriculum.

Juniper Institute for Young Writers 2019 Workshops:



Taught by: Sarah Coates

In this course we will write in tandem with our peers. Crafting 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. In class we will ‘try on’ different collaborative processes including introvert’s improv, collective drafting, curation, self-collaboration and Frankenstein’s Monster. We will collaborate generously, ultimately writing a cohesive piece culminating in a showing of our work. 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 take on the shape of a D&D game, a compilation of intertwining stories, a curated collection, or maybe a variable narrative like a choose-your-own adventure. It’s up to you.

Come ready to lose yourself and be found by someone else. 



Taught by: ell davis 

In this workshop, we will use visual art as a tool for expanding our sense of what is
possible in writing and in the writing process. Our workshop will experiment with bold and playful revision practices inspired by the techniques of visual artists, especially those working in collage, a medium rich in lessons for writers. We will also collage! Participants will have opportunities to incorporate drawing, printmaking, collage, and ‘zine, and chapbook-making in to their process and projects as writers. Experience with drawing and other techniques is not required nor expected.


World Literature

Taught by: Astha Gupta  

This class will introduce you to a broad spectrum of world fiction. Through the reading of short stories from different countries, this course encourages exploration of diverse writing styles, authorial devices, global themes and of the diversity of human experience itself. A typical day will involve a discussion on the assigned short story and in-class activities like Map-making or cartography to learn how to construct fictional worlds and Reading Aloud to understand rhythms and sound; to be followed by free-writing. You will have the opportunity to workshop one short piece with your fellow writers, offering and receiving useful feedback.


Hip Hop Poetics- a study of hip hop as praxis  

Taught by: JR Mahung

“I’m not just hip-hop because I listen to and make the music. I’m hip-hop because of the way I lace my boots” - Angel Nafis 

From inception one of the core tenets of hip-hop culture was to study one’s surroundings and use the tools most immediately available to transform that space into something more vibrant. In this course writers will explore the history and aesthetics of diss tracks, sampling, and the remix among many other hip hop mainstays to engage with writing as an act of transformation. By the end of the class writers will have a small portfolio of writings of different genres along with tools to analyze the space around them and use what they see not just to arrive at products but also to guide their process of being a writer in a larger writing community. Class activities will include: Free Writes Analyzing Texts Generative Writing Watching videos Class discussion Kinetic/Motion based writing activities


Space Jam

Taught by: Emilie Menzel

In this workshop, we’ll explore the many spaces of writing, both those we build and those we inhabit.

We’ll talk about space as in story setting. We’ll discuss writers as architects, constructing language spaces into which readers must crawl. We’ll discuss world building—constructing rules and landscapes on which your stories will play out. We’ll talk about establishing tone and atmosphere of an environment through word choice and description. 

We’ll talk about space as in the physical space writing occupies on the page. We’ll discuss ways of writing with awareness of the spatial form you are constructing for your reader, particularly with poetry. We’ll consider ways to present our writing in visual forms (collage, mobiles, maps, more) as well as written forms and observe how this transformation alters the impact of the work. We’ll talk about ekphrasis and writing that responds to visual objects.  

We’ll talk about space as in how much we take up space. We’ll consider how much space we currently allow ourselves to occupy in our writing content and style. How much are we quieting our message? How are we catering to fear about what writing is supposed to be? How can we practice being bolder? We’ll also practice taking up space when reading our work, ways of presenting.

We’ll talk about space as in the environments in which we write. How can we set up our writing spaces to best help us produce work? What work environments do others use and can we borrow from them? How can we sustain creative practice as busy students? How can we build writing community?

We will write prose, poetry, and all the wonderful in-between. We will learn to discuss craft and readings as writers and begin to develop a vocabulary to accompany such conversations. We will venture into ways of sharing writing and navigate effectively commenting on one another's’ writing in such vulnerable environments. We will plan for how to sustain writing practice, enthusiasm, and community post-JIYW. 



Taught by: Raquel Perez De Alderete
“ all the monsters in my nursery: May you never leave me alone.”
-- Guillermo del Toro

Is it in your closet? Under your bed? In your past? In your head? This workshop centers around our favorite cryptids, monstrosities, and graveyard lore. In learning what we find monstrous, we’re also going to look into what makes us a monster. We’re going to make friends with the skeletons we’ve buried, dance with the ghosts of our past, pick apart the stories we tell at campfires, spin shadows into yarn. We’ll pull apart what horrifies us about ourselves, the world at large, and the world beyond this one. Expect lots of experimentation, self-discovery, and spooky stories.


The Covers Class

Taught by: Jay Ritchie

Like a good song, good writing gets stuck in your head. 

This class will look at writing we can’t forget & use it as inspiration for our own writing. We will learn craft by writing “covers” of famous poems & fictions that have gotten stuck in the mind of the collective consciousness—& those that are stuck in your mind, too. By identifying exactly what these pieces of writing do on a technical level & rehearsing them in our own unique styles, we will learn in an organic fashion how to make writing work for our own voices, so that we can hit all the right notes the next time we set out to sing. 

Our week will consist of discussions on the assigned readings, in-class exercises, prompts, short lectures, as well as giving written & oral feedback on the writing of our classmates. Bringing in writing done before Juniper or manuscripts-in-progress is welcomed & encouraged.


Reading and Writing Other Futures

Taught by: Roman Sanchez

This workshop will use creative writing to imagine possible world futures, paying attention to how social issues like global warming, inequality, and war can be expressed in our characters' lives, both internal and external. We will explore the tensions that come to the surface in situations where the inevitable and the possible mix, where things do not turn out as they should, and old ways of living, loving, and working no longer stand. The primary goal of the course is to find the edges of the possible in our stories and poetic lines, to move beyond the cliche or the sentimental, to create art that shows how all is not dire, that there are still chances for joy, love, hope, happiness, redemption, and survival.

We will read science fiction, fantasy, and experimental literature written by diverse authors, reflecting on how world-building and narrative might lead us to possible solutions for social problems we face. My hope is for everyone to finish the week with a draft of a short story or body of poetry - something rough to work on after you leave. In-class activities could include: imagining lives of future descendants, crafting a poetry of emotions never felt before, co-writing scenes of what happens next.


Strange Realms

Taught by: Alex Terrell  

Weird worlds, peculiar places, and eerie environments. That’s where we’ll find ourselves for the next few days. We’ll ask ourselves: What is it about Game of Thrones, Lord of the Rings, and The Hunger Games that we find so interesting? Is it that they take place in worlds so different from our own? Or is it that they resemble our own world too much? It is in these strange realms that we will explore what it means for something to be weird, science fiction, mythical, or magical. We will create and destroy worlds. We will become cruel gods and puppeteers pitting our characters against mythical creatures, disastrous events, and maybe even apocalypses. We will engage in world-building exercises and generative free-writing. Other exercises will include creating an entire world on the back of a napkin and writing your characters into (or out of) someone else’s world.


Both You and Not You

Taught by: Lena Tskynovska
Together we’ll make writing inspired by the ways you live with people. How can your conversations, jokes, arguments, loves, your gossip, texts, and daydreams become your writing? How can your time alone in your room, your life with yourself, become a way of speaking to others? We’ll read the works of people who lived and wrote as part of a community, and take inspiration from their writing practices: we’ll record memories, conversations, dreams, moods, what you eat, what you wear, and the weather outside, and we’ll use techniques like collage and erasure to transform them into your writings. This will be our way into something both personal and universal, both you and not you.  Our main goal will be for you to develop habits and techniques inspired by your own lives, that always make you want to write. 


Literary Outlaws 

Taught by: Rebecca Valley

In this workshop, we will become voyagers into the lawless space between poetry and prose – the Wild West of literature, where we will experiment, investigate, and create new maps of what we believe writing could and should be. As explorers in this hybrid landscape, we are on a two-fold mission: to be surprised as often as possible, and to change the “rules” of writing by pushing the boundaries of what our own writing can be. To help us in our quest, we will read literary outlaws of the past and present, and use their forms to guide and inspire our work. We will read book-length poems and microfiction, one-act plays, letters, unconventional memoirs, and much more. Some of our writing activities might include: translating Egyptian hieroglyphics, writing imagined obituaries, creating storyboards from collages, and writing collaboratively. As we write and read together, we will learn how to talk about writing with a focus not on genre and its often arbitrary stipulations, but on a piece's unique rhythms, patterns, yearnings, and potentials. 

This will be a generative workshop, and you will leave with plenty of new material and strategies to help you produce new, surprising writing long after our workshop ends. Together we will read, write, listen, and collaborate, but your primary responsibility as a workshop participant is to come in with as few expectations as possible, to make space for the glorious, startling wild unexpected. 


Juniper Institute for Young Writers: Field Trips and Craft Sessions 2019


Bounding Into the Sun: a session on imagining new futures (Teachers: JR Mahung & Astha Gupta)

Field Trip Destination: Amherst College Museum of Natural History

For this craft workshop we will explore how writers use the page as a space to expand the imagination beyond the limits of what is often considered politically possible. In Franny Choi’s poem “field trip to the museum of human history” the police are an entity that exists only in textbooks, an institution that “no living hands remember”. Choi’s speaker first witnesses handcuffs and nightsticks as relics of a past long gone. They learn of a time where people in American society lived “in submission, in fear”. Young writers will read Choi’s poem (and possibly one or two other texts), they will then walk around the field trip of natural history, using exhibits and preservation techniques as inspiration to consider 1) their own oppressive entity or institution that they believe belongs in the past and 2) how that entity would be presented and understood in the future. Writers will then have time to write their own poem or story after Choi’s poem. 


“I heard a fly buzz -- when I died” -- Emily Dickinson (Teachers: Alex Terrell & Molly Gray)

Field Trip Destination: Emily Dickinson Museum

What’s makes a place haunted? Is it those who have died there? Or those who lived there? Emily Dickinson was born at the homestead (now the Emily Dickinson Museum), spent most of her life there and also died there. In this craft session, we will take a look at how settings and places can hold ghosts (and histories) of people past. We will write about people that haunt and places that stay with us long after we’re gone from them. Then we will take a trip to The Emily Dickinson Museum to explore the spaces Emily Dickinson left behind.


Collecting for Writers (Teachers: Emilie Menzel & Ell Davis) 

Field Trip Destination: Emily Dickinson Museum

In this session, we will talk about writers as collectors, and writers as careful observers cultivating relationships with objects / plants / creatures. We will read example writing from Emily Dickinson, Edward Gorey, Annie Dillard, Joanne Kyger, Pablo Neruda, and more. Participants will have brought a portable object to our session on Wednesday morning; they will make collaborative collections using objects by placing them in various arrangements!; and record observations about collections & imagine a story about the person who collects each category/type. During our visit to the museum, participants will collect observations, drawings, notes, research, etc. about one specific thing they are drawn to in a little cute book specially and lovingly made by e & e.


THE STORY OF MYSELF (Teachers: Raquel Perez de Alderate & Rebecca Valley) 

Field Trip Destination: Eric Carle Museum

In conjunction with a journey to the Eric Carle Museum of the Picture Book, we will create body-sized visual poems using collage techniques and materials from some favorite childhood picture books. Our craft session will begin with a brief discussion of how the earliest stories we read shaped our identity – how characters, settings, rhymes, and illustrations helped us craft our understanding of ourselves and the world, and how we have complicated those ideas as we’ve grown older. After our discussion, we will trace our bodies on butcher paper and create life-size collages that explore our many conceptions of self, new and old. Our collaging session will be followed by a trip to the Carle, where we will visit galleries that consider the legacy of LGBTQA+ culture in children’s literature, the adventure books of Peter Sis, and the book-making process, from inspiration to publication.


Changing the World Through Writing (Teacher: Jay Ritchie) 

Field Trip Destination: The W. E. B. Du Bois Center

The life of a writer consists of more than just spending time at your desk. For many of our most daring & inspirational writers, writing comes out of a deep engagement with the social realities of their time; W. E. B. Du Bois is a perfect example. As a public figure & agitator, Du Bois worked to improve the lives of Black Americans, as well as other marginalized groups—he also wrote novels & short stories. This craft session will visit the Du Bois Center in order to find a model for how the writing life can not only exist alongside of, but spring from a commitment to social change. 


The Work of W.E.B Du Bois: Intersectionality & poetic intervention (Teachers:  Sarena Brown & Roman Sanchez) 

Field Trip Destination: The W. E. B. Du Bois Center

This session invites participants to spend time with Du Bois’ body of work, and to reflect on how they have been, are, or can be seen as problems to society. We will before consider how we might explore the intersections of one’s social identities through poetic intervention. We will leave this session with a very brief overview of Du Bois’ racial theory (by reading excerpts of his theory, and with the visit to the W.E.B Du Bois Center). Participants will also leave with a short list of writing prompts and poems that consider multiple perspectives. 


Utempia (Teachers: Sarah Coates & Lena Tsykynovska)

Field Trip Destination: top secret

In this craft session we’ll be investigating different kinds of time. We’ll go to a secret location in nature outside of Amherst proper and invent new kinds of time through writing. This will be a place of no time, all time, fast time, slow time, body time and backward time, diagonal time, and the time of labor and the time of trees and creatures. We’ll read and write on picnic blankets overlooking the mountains. Please note this trip covers unpredictable terrain, will invite some participants to travel blindfolded, and is not wheelchair accessible.