Selinsgrove, PA: For the past 17 years, a group of 45 select seniors and juniors have travelled to Susquehanna University to spend a week together in late June. They come to the green campus in the small town of Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania to participate in the Advanced Writers Workshop, taught by professors from the university and helped by teaching assistants from its writing majors.
Students enroll in one of three workshops: Fiction, Creative Nonfiction or Poetry. They spend a week reading selections, drafting, workshopping and honing their skills as writers. The professors, published and widely recognized writers, have much to teach the young writers. The TAs, as university students, have wisdom to share about the college experience that is just ahead for the students, and what it means to be a writer in college. Students attend classes, break for lunch, and then have more classes. At the end of each day, they gather to listen to a reading by a professor or visiting writer.
It goes without saying, however, that the students don’t only learn from their professors. Gathering so many talented and artistic people in such a stimulating atmosphere gives rise to many meaningful experiences. Whether composing poetry as a group, engaging in spontaneous late-night readings, or having discussions about their favorite works, there is definitely a strong group dynamic and a sense of community.
The workshop also provides a preview of college life. Students live in a dorm with comfortable rooms and a spacious common area. They eat at the university cafeteria and have access to the gym and bookstore.
At the end of the week, which always comes much too fast, students meet with parents, professors and TAs to enjoy brunch, then divide into three groups with a teacher, a TA and 15 students (representing all three genres) who share their favorite piece with parents.
The workshop is an intense week of work and new friendships. Students leave having gained new friends and skills. Student works, with a list of contact information, are published in a collection sent to them in the fall. The Advanced Writers Workshop is, if you ask any participant, a major milestone in the career of a young writer. The lessons learned about writing, college life and themselves are crucial and stay with students.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.