The Common Young Writers Program
Our introductory fiction class guides students through the process of writing a short story. No prior writing experience is necessary. Through daily writing assignments and class meetings, students will learn about the key building blocks of fiction—language, character, and plot—and will each complete their own short story by the end of the course. In addition to submitting daily assignments, students will meet several times as a group with our instructors and have the opportunity to ask questions during office hours. Students will also meet individually with an editor and editorial assistant to discuss their own short stories, and will not only receive written feedback on their first drafts and final stories, but on all daily assignments. The program also includes access to written Q&As with editors and authors, an introduction to literary magazines and their role as a vital stepping stone for new authors, additional inspiring writing prompts, a digital edition of the latest issue, and a print subscription to The Common.
Students should expect to spend around 3-4 hours each day on their assignments, including meeting times.
Class size will be small, and we’ll break into small groups for discussions during each session.
Level II: Advanced
Students who have already completed a creative writing class or workshop may apply for Level II, a collaborative fiction workshop in which students share work and provide feedback to each other, under the supervision of experienced teachers. Each student will submit a short story prior to the beginning of the course and will receive written and verbal feedback about this draft from their peers and instructors using the workshop format. Each student will also meet individually with their instructors to discuss their story and the feedback they received in their workshop. During class, students will learn and practice new writing techniques and discuss short stories that have been published in The Common. The program includes beyond-the-course exercises, a digital edition of the latest issue, and a print subscription to The Common.
Students should expect to spend 4-5 hours a day on their assignments, including meeting times.
Cost & Scholarships
The cost of the two-week program is $725 for Level I, and $875 for Level II. Full and partial need-based tuition waivers are available for both levels; we hope that no student will let financial difficulty prevent them from applying. Tuition waivers will be awarded to students with strong applications who cannot attend the program without financial assistance. In the application, students will have the opportunity to briefly describe their financial circumstances and state the amount they could afford to pay, if any, if accepted into the program. No tax returns or other documentation is required.
The program runs July 25-August 5. Applications are open now, and close on May 30. Decisions will be sent by June 1.
Students may fill out a free application via Submittable:
- Apply for Level I here.
- Apply for Level II here. Applicants not offered a place in Level II will be considered for Level I.
About The Common
An award-winning print and digital literary journal published biannually, The Common includes short stories, essays, poems, and images that embody a strong sense of place and features diverse voices from around the world. The Common Online publishes original content weekly, including book reviews, interviews, personal essays, short dispatches, poetry, fiction, contributor podcasts and recordings, and multimedia features. Based at Amherst College, the magazine is a joint venture between the College and The Common Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. The Common also runs the Literary Publishing Internship at Amherst College, mentoring students in all aspects of literary publishing, and the magazine is taught in high schools, colleges, and universities across the country.
Jennifer Acker is founder and editor in chief of The Common. She’s the author of the debut novel The Limits of the World, which was longlisted for the Massachusetts Book Award, and the Amazon bestselling memoir Fatigue. Her essays and short stories have appeared in The Washington Post, The Poets & Writers Complete Guide to Being a Writer, Ploughshares, n+1, The Yale Review, and other places. She has a BA from Amherst College and an MFA from the Bennington Writing Seminars and teaches writing and editing at Amherst College.
Hugh “H.D.” Hunter is a storyteller, teaching artist, and community organizer from Atlanta, Georgia. He’s the author of two self-published books as well as two forthcoming books, Futureland (Random House, 2022) and Something Like Right (FSG, 2023). He’s also the winner of several indie book awards for multicultural fiction. Hugh is committed to stories about Black kids and their many expansive worlds. He loves vegan snacks, basketball, and stories that make you cry—but make you smile after. Check out Hugh’s work at thesoutherndistrict.com and follow him @hd_tsd.
Emily Everett is managing editor of The Common. Her debut novel is forthcoming from Putnam Books. Her short fiction appears in the Kenyon Review, Tin House, Electric Literature, Mississippi Review, and other publications. She has a BA from Smith College and an MA from Queen Mary, University of London. She has a background in teaching and tutoring high school students preparing for college and has taught most recently at Writers in Progress.
Olive Amdur is the 2022-2023 Thomas E. Wood ’61 Fellow at The Common after two years as an editorial assistant. She is a rising senior at Amherst College majoring in English and American Studies, and runs the WAMH student music blog. Her work has been published in The Common, The Foundationalist, in student publications, and online at Amherst College Press. She grew up in Brooklyn, New York but loves the Pioneer Valley now too.
Andrenae Jones is an editorial assistant at The Common and a rising senior at Amherst College, studying Film and Media Studies and English. A fan of all writing that allows itself to be deeply personal and expressive, she is particularly inspired by On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong, Crush by Richard Siken, Bluets by Maggie Nelson, My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh, and anything by Toni Morrison and Emily Dickinson. A recipient of Amherst College’s MacArthur-Leithauser Travel Award, she is currently developing her first novella on identity and isolation.
Sarah Wu is an editorial assistant at The Common. She is a prospective major in English and Computer Science at Amherst College. She is a late-night writer of fantasy and surrealist short stories and is an editor for Amherst’s student-run literary magazine, The Indicator, as well as The Common. Her work has been published in Dark Dispatch’s anthology and other local publications.
Hailing 14 timezones from Tokyo, Japan, editorial assistant Sophie Durbin is happy to call Amherst College her eighth home after spending her peripatetic childhood split between Washington, D.C. and several countries abroad. A rising sophomore, she plans to study English and film, and keeps busy acting as president of Film Society, DJing for WAMH radio, and managing social media for the Multicultural Student Union. Whenever she can be pried away from mystery novels, the collective works of P.G. Wodehouse, and her sixth reread of The Secret History, she enjoys writing both fiction and nonfiction.
The Young Writers Scholarship Fund is made possible with the generous support from our donors.
All writing exercises and reading responses are due at 12pm EDT on the day that they are listed.
You will receive written feedback on all daily assignments (writing exercises/reading responses) from an editorial assistant within 24 hours of submission deadlines, with oversight from an editor.
You will receive verbal feedback on your short story draft in an individual Zoom conference that will be held within 24-48 hours of its submission deadline.
You will receive written feedback (line edits and a letter) on your final short story draft within one week of its submission deadline.
All Zoom discussions will have a lecture from an editor or guest speaker, with small group sessions led by editorial assistants.
Each day of instruction will be organized around a different aspect of fiction-writing craft.
Reading Assignment + Writing Exercise #1 ● Zoom Introductions
Reading Assignment + Reading Response
Writing Assignment #2 ● Zoom Discussion
Reading Assignment + Reading Response ● Zoom Office Hours by Appointment (20 min ea)
Writing Exercise #3 ● Zoom Discussion
First Draft of Story Due ● Zoom Discussion
Reading Assignment + Reading Response ● Zoom Individual Conferences (20 min ea)
Writing Assignment #4 ● Zoom Individual Conferences Continued (20 min ea)
Reading Assignment + Reading Response ● Zoom Discussion
Final Draft of Story Due ● Zoom Discussion ● Student Readings, 5 pm (all staff & students, parents invited)
- Workshop stories must be uploaded to Google Classroom by 5 pm EDT on July 17 in order for students to begin the course. Short stories should be no longer than 2,500 words.
- Workshop letters due by 8 am EDT on the day the stories will be discussed so that Jen and Marian can look over these before class. These letters should follow the guidelines provided on Google Classroom.
- Readings will be discussed on the date that they are listed on the calendar. Students should read these stories ahead of time and think about how they apply to the writing concepts we have discussed in class.
- Other than the short story due on July 17 and the revision assignment due by class time on August 5, students will not be required to complete fiction writing assignments outside of class.
- You will receive verbal feedback on your short story in class from your peers and instructors as well as written feedback (line edits and a letter) from your peers and instructor.
- You will also receive verbal feedback on your short story from instructors in an individual Zoom conference that will be held after your story is discussed in class.
- You will have the opportunity to share your in-class writing exercises with your peers and instructor during small group discussions in class.
- All Zoom discussions will include both large group lectures and discussions with instructors as well as small group discussions.
Each day of instruction will be organized around a different aspect of fiction-writing craft. Students will also complete in-class writing exercises and discuss short stories published in The Common.
Reading Assignment ● Zoom Introductions
Reading Assignment + Group#1 Workshop Letters ● Zoom Discussion
Group #2 Workshop Letters ● Zoom Discussion
Reading Assignment + Group #3 Workshop Letters ● Zoom Discussion
Reading Assignment + Individual Conferences ● Zoom Discussion
Reading Assignment + Group #4 Workshop Letters ● Zoom Discussion
Group #5 Workshop Letters ● Zoom Discussion
Reading Assignment + Group #5 Workshop Letters ● Zoom Discussion
Discussion Questions + Individual Conferences ● Zoom Discussion
Revision Assignment ● Zoom Discussion ● Student Readings, 6 pm (all staff & students, parents invited)
|Adam Scanlon||Garrett M Brown and Marie Pal-Brown||Naddy Salim|
|Akshay Gopalan||Ghassan Zeineddine||Nahla Tabbaa|
|Alice Shechter||Harold Augenbraum||Niko Pfund|
|Ama Codjoe||Heather McClelland||Noor Naga|
|Amelia Palmer Hansen||Hiten Samtani||Olive Amdur|
|Angela F. Qian||Jeanne-Marie Fleming||Raven Baptiste|
|Ashley Tran||Jenny Slate||Rebecca K Beck|
|Barbara Mayer||Jeremy Clark||Ria Talken|
|Ben Shattuck||JoAnn Balingit||Russell Gladhart|
|Carlie Hoffman||Kalidas Shanti||Sara Elkamel|
|Cecily Whiting||Katherine A Vaz||Sarah Bliss|
|Charles Acker||Kathleen Gibbons||Scott Nelson|
|Cheryl Collins Isaac||LaToya Faulk||Shiru Hong|
|Daphne Andreades||Laura V Green||Simon Shieh|
|David Kirkpatrick||Lee Oglesby||Sonali Chanchani|
|Deborah Michel||Lucy Ralston||Sophie Son|
|Diane Schwemm||Margot Wizansky||Soumeya Bendimerad Roberts|
|Doley Henderson||Marian Crotty||Stanley Patrick Stocker|
|Dorothy Shattuck||Michael Simon||Susan Hirsch|
|Elizabeth Witte||Michelle Sit||Tom Elliott|
|Ellen Todras||Molly (Mary) Howes||Tom Skove|
|Emily & Peter W Gladhart||Motoko Rich||Whitney Hubbard|