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.
Total class size is capped at 20 students, breaking into small groups for discussions.
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.
Total class size is capped at 12 students.
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 19-31. Applications are open now, and close on May 8. Decisions will be sent by May 31.
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.
Level I Instructors
Emily Everett is managing editor of The Common. 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 the Pioneer Valley Writers’ Workshop and Writers in Progress.
Elly Hong is the Literary Editorial Fellow at The Common and a 2021 graduate of Amherst College. She is from Pasadena, California. When she’s not writing, you can find her fencing, drawing, or looking for a dog to pet. She enjoys all genres of literature but is particularly fond of speculative fiction.
Level II Instructors
Marian Crotty is the author of the story collection What Counts as Love, which was longlisted for the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction and won the Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize. Her fiction has appeared in the Alaska Quarterly Review, the Southern Review, the Kenyon Review, and The Best American Short Stories 2020. She has a BA in English from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, an MFA from Arizona State University, and a PhD in English from Florida State University. She is an assistant editor at The Common and an Associate Professor of Writing at Loyola University Maryland.
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.
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 from an editor and editorial assistant 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 from an editor and editorial assistant within one week of its submission deadline.
All Zoom discussions will have an introduction from an editor, 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, 11 am-12:30 pm
Reading Assignment + Reading Response
Writing Assignment #2 ● Zoom Discussion, 11 am-12:15 pm
Reading Assignment + Reading Response ● Zoom Office Hours by Appointment, 11 am-12:30 pm (20 min ea)
Writing Exercise #3 ● Zoom Discussion, 11 am-12:15 pm
First Draft of Story Due ● Zoom Discussion, 11 am-12:15 pm
Reading Assignment + Reading Response ● Zoom Individual Conferences (with assigned editor & editorial assistant, 20 min ea)
Writing Assignment #4 ● Zoom Individual Conferences Continued (with assigned editor & editorial assistant, 20 min ea)
Reading Assignment + Reading Response ● Zoom Discussion, 11 am-12:15 pm
Final Draft of Story Due ● Zoom Discussion, 11 am-12:15 pm ● Student Readings, 5 pm (all staff & students, parents invited)
- Workshop stories must be uploaded to Google Classroom by 5 pm EDT on July 12 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 12 and the revision assignment due by class time on July 30, 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 assigned editor (Jen or Marian).
- You will also receive verbal feedback on your short story from both 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 both editors as well as small group discussions led by one editor.
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, 3 pm-5 pm
Reading Assignment + Group#1 Workshop Letters ● Zoom Discussion, 3 pm-5 pm
Group #2 Workshop Letters ● Zoom Discussion, 3 pm-5 pm
Reading Assignment + Group #3 Workshop Letters ● Zoom Discussion, 3 pm-5 pm
Reading Assignment + Individual Conferences ● Zoom Discussion, 3 pm-5 pm
Reading Assignment + Group #4 Workshop Letters ● Zoom Discussion, 3 pm-5 pm
Group #5 Workshop Letters ● Zoom Discussion, 3 pm-5 pm
Reading Assignment + Group #5 Workshop Letters ● Zoom Discussion, 3 pm-5 pm
Discussion Questions + Individual Conferences ● Zoom Discussion, 3 pm-5 pm
Revision Assignment ● Zoom Discussion, 3pm-5 pm ● Student Readings, 6 pm (all staff & students, parents invited)
The Common Young Writers Program