Students reading with a tagline: Read, write, and share in community. Turn passion into art.

 

→ Applications for The Common Young Writers Program are currently closed. To register your interest in hearing about next summer’s program, please fill out this form
 

The Common Young Writers Program

 
The Common Young Writers Program welcomes high school students passionate about creative writing to join us for two inspiring weeks dedicated to the craft of fiction. In this virtual course, students will learn and experiment with the building blocks of fiction (scene, character, plot, image) and be guided through the process of writing and revising their own short stories. Students will learn to read like a writer, by closely examining short stories published in The Common, and engage with their peers. At the end of the program, students will emerge more confident in their skills and more connected to a supportive writing community.
 
Taught by the editors and editorial assistants of Amherst College’s literary magazine, the summer courses (Level I and Level II) run Monday-Friday, July 25-August 5. We will prioritize high school applicants, rising 9-12 grades (or the equivalent if home-schooled), but will accept applications for Level II from former participants entering college if they are no older than 18.
 

 

Level I 

student reading The Common

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.

Click here for more detail about the Level I program and to view a sample schedule.

  

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. 

Click here for more detail about the Level II program and to view a sample schedule.

 

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.

 

TC Discussion

Apply

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:


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.


Program Instructors
 

Jennifer AckerJennifer 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 Hunter headshotHugh “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 headshot - brick backgroundEmily 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.

 

 Image of Sofia Belimova headshot.Sofia Belimova is the 2022-2023 literary editorial fellow at The Common and a 2022 graduate of Amherst College. She is from New York City, but lives in Western Massachusetts. Her favorite authors include William Faulkner, Toni Morrison, Jesmyn Ward, and Ocean Vuong. A recipient of the Peter Burnett Howe Prize for excellence in prose fiction and the English Department 19th Century Novel Essay Prize, she enjoys both creative and critical writing, as well as poetry and other art forms.  

 

Olive Amdur headshotOlive 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 headshot - dark hair

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 headshotSarah 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.

 

 

Sophie Durbin headshot

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.

 

Image of Dark-Blue button linking to the TCYWP scholarship donation form.

The Young Writers Scholarship Fund is made possible with the generous support from our donors.

Level I: Program Details & Sample Schedule

Deadlines 

All writing exercises and reading responses are due at 12pm EDT on the day that they are listed.

Feedback/Discussions

  • 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.
 

Week 1

Monday
Reading Assignment + Writing Exercise #1  ●  Zoom Introductions

Tuesday
Reading Assignment + Reading Response

Wednesday
Writing Assignment #2  ●  Zoom Discussion

Thursday
Reading Assignment + Reading Response  ●  Zoom Office Hours by Appointment (20 min ea)

Friday
Writing Exercise #3  ●  Zoom Discussion
 

Week 2

Monday
First Draft of Story Due  ●  Zoom Discussion

Tuesday
Reading Assignment + Reading Response  ●  Zoom Individual Conferences (20 min ea)

Wednesday
Writing Assignment #4  ●  Zoom Individual Conferences Continued (20 min ea)

Thursday
Reading Assignment + Reading Response  ●  Zoom Discussion

Friday
Final Draft of Story Due  ●  Zoom Discussion  ●  Student Readings, 5 pm (all staff & students, parents invited)

 

Level II Program Details & Sample Schedule

Deadlines 

  • 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. 

Feedback/Discussions

  • 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.
 

Week 1

Monday 
Reading Assignment ●  Zoom Introductions

Tuesday
Reading Assignment + Group#1 Workshop Letters ● Zoom Discussion

Wednesday
Group #2 Workshop Letters  ● Zoom Discussion

Thursday
Reading Assignment + Group #3 Workshop Letters  ● Zoom Discussion

Friday
Reading Assignment + Individual Conferences  ● Zoom Discussion
 

Week 2

Monday
Reading Assignment + Group #4 Workshop Letters  ● Zoom Discussion

Tuesday
Group #5 Workshop Letters  ● Zoom Discussion

Wednesday
Reading Assignment + Group #5 Workshop Letters  ● Zoom Discussion

Thursday
Discussion Questions + Individual Conferences  ● Zoom Discussion

Friday
Revision Assignment  ● Zoom Discussion ●  Student Readings, 6 pm (all staff & students, parents invited)

 

Image of Dark-Blue button linking to the TCYWP scholarship donation form.

Thank you to our kind donors for supporting the TCYWP scholarship fund.

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
The Common Young Writers Program