Workshop and Field Trip/Craft Session Selection

Writing Labs

At the heart of the online program are Writing Labs, where participants explore creative styles, forms, subjects, and modes of writing. The lab sessions meet daily for interactive instruction with a cohort of passionate young writers from all walks of life. Labs are synchronous, dynamic, and participatory. The work is complex and at a college level, allowing participants to dive deep into developing their own work and exchanging feedback with one another on their creative writing projects.

Following the completion of the Writing Lab, instructors provide each participant with a written summary of their work, evaluation of their progression toward writing goals, and future considerations for their writing.

Writing Labs are offered during week one of the Juniper Institute for Young Writers, Juniper Young Writers Online, and the JYWO Winter Workshops.

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


Residential program Writing Labs

Juniper Institute for Young Writers, July 29–August 2


Digging Yourself From the Mud

Taught by: Bec Bell-Gurwitz 

Do you struggle with getting stuck in the proverbial mud when you write? The purpose of this lab is to move past “stuckness” and tap into the unconscious to keep the critic quiet. Together we will imagine and create a writer’s space that supports this mindset. I don’t necessarily mean a physical space–not everybody has the luxury of that–but a space where you have objects and rituals you need to bring you back into your unconscious, finding some of our own talismans around campus. In this lab, we will get out of the mud and back into writing through various generative rituals including associative webs, writing from the perspective of a body part, building an exquisite corpse, writing the history of our talismans, writing before the “before” or pushing past “the end” of something we have already written, rituals to help with editing, and more. We will read from a selection of writers in various genres including Lidia Yuknavich, CAConrad, Hoa Nyguen, Sophie Strand, Therese Mailhot, and Bayo Akomalafe, practicing and learning from their practices. At the end of our work together, you will have several new rituals to add to your repertoire, new work, and a network of support to dig you out of that mud should you ever find yourself stuck again!


The Same Hand: Writing Poetry & Prose Side-by-Side

Taught by: Ekaterina Agniatsvet

This lab will introduce students to a diversity of writers who express themselves through both poetry and prose.

Every lab, students will be given a packet of excerpts of multi-genre work all written by the same person, i.e. Denis Johnson, Akwaeke Emezi, and Ocean Vuong. It is critical that the students see the same “artistic hand” work in different forms.

The entirety of the packet will be read out-loud. Students will be asked to reflect on how each form empowers the writer in a unique way. Some specific questions include: Does the writer create the same or different emotional effect across genres? Are there topics that seem more suited to be explored in poetry rather than prose? Is there a difference between how we structure a true story vs. a made-up one?

Students will be asked to come up with one topic to write about. These topics may or may not be inspired by that day’s reading. Then, the student will attempt to write an excerpt of poetry and prose on the same topic. Finally, the student will choose which genre feels the most cathartic & well-suited for the topic, and ultimately write a longer piece in that one form.


Writing Beyond Spectacle

Taught by: Nasira Watts

When I first began to study AfroFuturism as both genre and theoretic, I was struck by what scholar Mark Dery pointed out: what does it say that even in people's most grandiose imaginings, they actively exclude certain peoples. Though Dery was referencing the work of predominantly white science fiction and fantasy writers, the same sentiment can be held for writing as a whole: if all writing requires elements of the imagination, what does it say when communities, experiences, and histories are actively ignored, unaddressed, or excluded?

This multi-genre writing lab, Writing Beyond Spectacle, seeks to remedy this current truth of literature by molding conscious writers and creatives. It builds upon scholar and activist Saidiya Hartman’s ideas of racial enjoyment and spectacle to guide students on a journey of ethically centering the bottoms of the stories they wish to share. Focusing on autotheory, critical fabulation, and short story, we will work to determine the following: (1) How do you ethically center yourself in your own work, avoiding concepts like trauma porn, for instance; (2) How do you center the bottom of the communities you choose to depict, especially when venturing beyond what you know; and (3) What stories do you want to tell, and why?


Writing as Condition

Taught by: Riley Jones

How does living make writing possible? How does writing make living possible? In this generative Lab, we will take these questions seriously as we interrogate, mess with, and transform the boundaries between ‘writing’ and ‘life.’ We will think about the citational, improvisational, and contextual qualities of writing, imagining ‘writing’ as not only the act of placing words on paper, but also as a particular state or condition of being in the world, a state we can enter and cultivate through serious play. Taking inspiration from Bernadette Mayer’s writing experiments, Fernanda Laguna and Cecilia Pavón’s poetics of friendship, Sei Shōnagon’s diary of lists, and Joanne Kyger’s everyday mythmaking, we will try out many different tactics for getting our selves and our worlds into our writing. Central to our work together in this Lab will be experimentation, failure, and play, as we pay careful attention to the conditions which allow for writing to occur and engage both individually and collaboratively in discovering conditions that lead to our own writing.


Writing Delight & Inciting Joy

Taught by: Larry Flynn

In this course, we will read, experience, and write to incite joy, examine the nature of delight, and enact radical optimism. How can we germinate new visions of the world around us through the ritual of reading and hearing writing? How can writing be used as somatic practice, as healing habit? How does writing bring us into community, and help us shape collective effervescence, action, and justice? We will read poets and writers who contend with the presence, absence, and creation of delight—from the unabashedly grateful spirit of Ross Gay to the moral conviction of Nazim Hikmet to the extraordinariness of daily life in Hiromi Kawakami’s flash fiction. Through our readings, we will learn how writers use the tools of craft—line, meter, diction, sound, character, etc.—to shape the delightful experience and optimism of their writing. We will record daily curiosity journals and exchange our delight through reading our work aloud to each other. All are welcome!


Online program Writing Labs

Juniper Young Writers Online, August 5–August 9


Cloud Form Archive

Taught by: Phoebe Glick

This multi-genre lab is designed to help you source an archive of ideas, thoughts, and feelings from which to derive inspiration for your writing projects. Through a range of generative practices, we will create a “Cloud Archive”: a metaphysical collection made up of individual words, phrases, quotes, books, films, tv shows, graphic novels, poems, songs, albums, memes, tastes, sensations, memories, relationships, dreams, nightmares, textures, substances, sounds, concepts, creatures, time periods, events, plants, animals, monsters, qualities, or numbers. The Cloud Archive will take no objective shape or form but will be manifested according to the individual whims and desired shapes of the participants in this lab: your archive reflects you. Next, we will attempt to name or sense the relationships between the things that comprise our Cloud Archive. The relationships can range from straightforward to wild and associative. Through the process of building the archive, participants will have the opportunity to stop and write, both freely and through structured prompts. We will peruse our own archives as one looks through a bookshelf: an exhilarating library of the tendrils of ourselves from which to cull material for stories and poems. What kinds of writing will we create alongside and through the rigorous process of self-excavation and experimentation?


From Life to Page

Taught by: Richie Wills

How do we weave compelling narratives inspired by the rich tapestry of our daily lives? Whether you're drawn to fiction, memoir, poetry, or experimental forms, this lab invites you to use your daily experiences as vibrant canvases for creative expression. From the ordinary to the extraordinary, we'll explore the art of extrapolating meaningful stories that span across genres.

We will draw inspiration from a diverse range of writers, including Justin Torres, Haruki Murakami, Saeed Jones, Isabel Wilkerson, and George Saunders, and navigate the landscape of authentic storytelling through generative writing exercises. We will craft characters influenced by the people around us—friends, family, strangers, and fleeting encounters which become the wellspring of our creative exploration.

Each session will provide a space for exploration, experimentation, optional collaboration, and the crafting of stories that resonate with truth. Feedback sessions will foster a supportive community where the authenticity of our creations is celebrated!


The Magical and the Real

Taught by: Nathaniel Pinkham

People often draw a false binary between what is real and what is not. Even the most fantastical elements of a story have a realistic core that creates believability within the reader's mind. How do words make something that does not exist come alive inside our minds? What makes something real? How can we bring that into our writing?

This generative writing lab will focus on the question of realism, both how to write it and how to defy it. We will read the likes of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Donald Barhtleme, Franz Kafka, and Jorge Luis Borges to examine not only how they challenged the notion of realism, but why they challenged it in the first place. By the end of our time together, we will have learned the theory behind the magical and the real as well as practical techniques that we can apply inside the classroom and beyond it.

Magic is never just magic, after all.


Searching

Taught by: Joan Tate 

Why do you write? To express a part of yourself ? To make something beautiful? Or maybe you don’t know how else you would live? No matter how you feel, this class seeks to explore living the writer’s life and developing your own unique practice of searching. Linda Gregg opens her essay The Art of Finding saying “I believe that poetry at its best is found rather than written.” With this idea of finding your writing, this lab will be engaged in seeking where our writing comes from, both externally and internally. Together, we will ask ourselves how nature, living space, people, routine, ritual, and reflection all can factor in as essential parts of one’s writing. We will read excerpts of work from visionary writers such as James Schuyler, Audre Lorde, Eileen Myles, CAConrad, Eduardo C. Corral, James Baldwin, and more in hopes of developing our own aesthetic tastes, personal interests, and models for writing. Students will keep a sensory journal, go on sense walks, and engage in reflective exercises, guided meditations, discussions, and finally write an Ars Poetica or piece of writing exploring why you write at the end of the class. Together, we will find the joy in searching, and the importance of finding one’s own practice and a set of eyes with which to view the world.


Storytelling: Translations of Experience and Compelling Writing

Taught by: Zahra Lahiji 

What makes writing real? Is it voice, narrative, character? Is it the subject matter that we write or read about, or perhaps how convinced we are by what’s on the page? Stories are how we explore what we have experienced and experience what we have not yet encountered. It is through reading and writing that we are allowed to feel something vicariously through story and character. So, then, how do we write in ways that will resonate with our audiences? And what does this mean when dabbling in different genres, such as nonfiction or poetry?

In this writing lab, we will examine the ways in which renowned authors craft stories through powerful diction, voice, and point of view. We’ll consider how dialogue and description add to or take away from a narrative, and the how the different balances of these writing elements alter the perception of a story. By reading and discussing excerpts from known successful writers, we will interrogate why what works, works, and why what doesn’t, doesn’t.

We will look at examples from a range of classic and contemporary writers, such as Madeline Miller, Suzanne Collins, V.E. Schwab, James Baldwin, and Ernest Hemingway.