The Writer’s Village at Sarah Lawrence College
This summer I did a pre-college course at Sarah Lawrence College for three weeks in July. The course was a creative writing program called the “Writer’s Village,” where I took a fiction and a poetry class. I love both types of writing and I never seem to have enough time to free write during the school year. Plus, I lived on campus, which in itself was exciting.
The fiction class was one of the best classroom experiences I’ve ever had. The teacher, David Hollander, was phenomenal. Every day we would read a different style of short story and afterward, we would try to write a small piece in that style. One day it would be a story composed of run-on sentences; the next day it would be a work of mostly dialogue. We would only have about ten minutes to write, so I ended up with a collection of experimental pieces, some I was proud of and some that wasn’t, but at least I have material to play around with.
The poetry class was not what I expected it to be. Most of the time was spent reading the work of published poets and talking about what we liked. I did learn some new techniques and I did explore a whole different style of writing that normally I would never gravitate toward, but this was done organically and without the direct instruction of the teacher. The class emphasized free-form writing.
The teacher gave me real constructive criticism for my writing, which was really refreshing. Often with English teachers, they are uncertain on how to critique poetry or story writing. It was refreshing to get praise for my efforts as well as insight as to how I could improve my piece and develop it further.
Twice during the program, each student had conferences with the fiction and poetry teacher. I could bring in a piece and discuss it or just talk about my writing in general. The one-on-one situation made the experience really personal and it was clear the teachers really care about each student.
One of the highlights of the program was the workshops. For both poetry and fiction, there was an opportunity to print out my piece, give a copy to everyone and then read the story aloud so my peers could tell me what they thought was done well and what I could do to improve. Every student would write comments on the print outs and give them back to the writer, so at the end of the day, I had this collection of thoughtful, encouraging comments from my peers.
I highly recommend this program to any high school student who loves writing. By the end of the program, I had gotten incredibly close to all the girls in my dorm as well as the teachers. Someone from my class has created an online classroom so we can continue to workshop each other’s pieces. It was truly wonderful to be a part of this group of talented writers. #
Zara Jamshed, an intern at Education Update, is a junior at the United Nations International School in Manhattan.