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.
Level I tuition tiers:
Level II tuition tiers:
Need-based tuition waivers beyond the discounts described above 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 17-28. Applications are now open, and will close on May 15.
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.
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.
Michael Zendejas studies for a fiction MFA at UMass Amherst. He runs the film blog, The Chicano Film Shelf, and was an inaugural recipient of the Rose Fellowship, a Juniper Fellow, a 2022 winner of the James W. Foley Memorial Prize and was in the inaugural cohort of the Emerging Writers Fellowship. He consults and teaches classes on Fiction, Poetry and Screenwriting via GrubStreet. His work is featured or forthcoming in: Stanchion, North American Review, Unstamatic, Five2One Magazine and elsewhere. He’s currently working on a novel!
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.
Morolape “Morry” Ajao is an editorial assistant at The Common and a rising sophomore at Amherst who plans to study English. An Amherst local, she grew up immersed in the five-college literary community and spends a significant portion of her time at the Jones Library, sorting through their shelves and checking out too many books at once. She has contributed to the college’s poetry magazine, The Lilac, as well as the college’s newspaper, The Student. Recently, she has ventured into creative non-fiction writing. As an international student from Nigeria, she enjoys expressing her unique perspective on the page.
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.
Kei Lim is an editorial assistant at The Common, and an economics and English major at Amherst College. They love all things reading, writing, and editing, and are involved with multiple publications on campus, including as a Senior Managing Editor for the college newspaper. They also design and teach creative writing workshops as an instructor for Cosmic Writers, and hope to inspire in others a lifelong love for the literary arts. In their free time, they may be found curled up with a hot mug of tea and their tripod cat, Ollie, or plucking away at their guitar or bass.
Hailing from the Chicago suburbs, Sam Spratford is the inaugural Applefield Fellow at The Common and a rising senior at Amherst College. A compulsive reader and writer, she is also the Editor-in-Chief of the college newspaper and is writing a thesis in law and political philosophy. In her free time, she is an avid journaler who enjoys playing the bass and exploring the Holyoke Range. Her all-time favorite pieces of media are David Lynch’s “Twin Peaks” and anything written by Franz Kafka.
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 10 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 we 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 10 and the revision assignment due by class time on July 28, 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|