Bard College at Simon's Rock: Young Writers Workshop | Summer Program Guide | Teen Ink

Bard College at Simon's Rock: Young Writers Workshop

In the summer of 1983 Simon’s Rock began offering a three-week writing workshop for high school students modeled after the innovative three-week Workshop in Language and Thinking required of all entering students at Bard College. We are now part of the National Writing and Thinking Network, the largest consortium of summer writing programs and camps in the country. Each year 84 academically motivated students are chosen to participate in the Simon’s Rock summer program. Former participants have gone on to such colleges as Amherst, Bard, Harvard, Haverford, Kenyon, Princeton, Simon’s Rock, Smith, Williams, and Yale.

Unlike conventional workshops in expository and creative writing, Simon’s Rock’s camp focuses on using informal, playful, expressive writing as a way to strengthen skills of language and thinking. Out of these informal writing activities, using techniques of peer response, students develop more polished pieces, ranging from personal narratives to stories, poems, and exploratory essays.

The workshop sections are small (12 students). This allows for individual attention to each student and helps to foster the sense of belonging to a supportive learning community in which students can feel comfortable exploring new directions in their writing and thinking. Trusting one’s own language and voice, learning to think for oneself and in collaboration with others- these are the qualities and skills that the workshop strives to develop.

Each weekday consists of three ninety-minute sessions organized as writing and discussion seminars. Workshop leaders write with their students, and there is frequent sharing of this informal writing, both in small groups and in the class as a whole. Discussions of assigned readings - mostly contemporary poems, stories, and essays - is informal and speculative. The emphasis isn’t on arriving at a "correct answer" but on exploring various ideas about what a text is saying. The texts also frequently serve as starting points and models for students’ own creative writing exercises. These daily activities are complemented by evening assignments in reading, revising, and journal writing.

Each week students develop a portfolio of "works in progress" and then meet individually with their workshop leader to discuss what they have written. Rather than evaluation, these meetings focus on what the writer is trying to do in his or her writing and how best to accomplish these goals. By becoming more conscious of their choices and strategies, students develop the intellectual autonomy expected of them as they prepare for college.

Students live on campus in the college’s dormitories, along with adults who are members of the Simon’s Rock student life staff. Aside from quiet hours and a curfew, students are free to organize their time in ways that fit their particular needs, whether that means preparing for the next day’s class, socializing with friends, participating in a recreational activity, or attending an off-campus cultural event.

All faculty are experienced teachers and writers with a special interest in the theory and practice of the nationally recognized Bard College Institute for Writing and Thinking. They are selected for the Simon’s Rock workshop camp because of their record of teaching excellence and their familiarity with the needs and abilities of younger writers.


Ages: 14-17

Gender: Co-Ed

Type: Overnight/Residential

Physical & Mailing Address:
Bard College at Simons Rock, 84 Alford Road
Great Barrington, MA USA 01230

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This summer program has 16 comments.

cforeman said...
on Apr. 10 2018 at 8:04 pm
I often attribute my decision to pursue creative writing at Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, NY to my experience at the Young Writers Workshop. At fifteen years old, never has I been surrounded by teenagers like myself who were so similarly obsessed with the opportunity for self-discovery and exploration of the world around them through writing. I cherish every moment of YWW, from waking up early to run around Simon's Rock's stunning, wooded campus before class, to our intimate workshops in which we wrote more than I'd ever written before (the first time I completed a notebook filled with JUST my creative work!), to the open mics and student readings where we learned to read our work aloud to each other. Great Barrington is a very quaint, safe, and sweet town, with just about everything you need- a few lovely coffee shops, great restaurants, a movie theater, the best ice cream (with student discounts!), and a great used bookstore. The Berkshires are a great place to get close to friends you will hold onto forever (I know I have!). At its core, YWW is two things: the celebration of the written word and the spirit of camaraderie it inspires in young people. The moment YWW began, I knew poetry was what I would dedicate my life to. I will be forever grateful to YWW for giving that gift to me.

KD.Winter said...
on Mar. 20 2018 at 3:04 pm
Choosing to attend Bard YWW in 2014, the summer before my senior year of high school, meant choosing to take my passion for creative writing seriously, but it also ended up being one of the most exciting three weeks of self-discovery as a writer. The workshop settings were run in a format similar to the way I experience them now, as a college student. You're surrounded by people who truly want to engage, inside the classroom and out. When I wasn't in workshops, I was attending activities like found poetry workshops, hikes, trips into town, and open mics. I recently returned to YWW as an RA, and saw how consistent the writing community atmosphere has been through the years. The off-campus cultural excursions were amazing (I still talk about a production I saw of Martin McDonagh's "The Beauty Queen of Leenane" today) and overall I left the program feeling much more confident as an artist. This isn't to say you need to be head-over-heels in love with writing every second of the day to attend...but you may leave finding a new passion for creating art. The spirit of writing, sharing, and reading is contagious, and my time at Bard YWW laid the foundation for me to pursue a BA in English and Creative Writing at Muhlenberg College. The Berkshires are a beautiful place to spend your summer, and the campus itself helped me inform my college search: I knew I wanted lots of green space. Most importantly, attending Bard YWW will give you the time, space, and support to grow as a writer. But you'll also walk away with amazing friends, memories, and a few books from the wonderful used book store in town.

sam24601 said...
on Mar. 20 2018 at 1:47 pm
This workshop helped me to produce some of my best work. I really enjoyed the write-and-share setup of the workshops, especially because of the frequent and detailed feedback we received. Additionally, I appreciated that the program was "hands off" besides scheduled workshop time/events, so my free time was mine to do what I wanted.

gpasley said...
on Mar. 19 2018 at 11:23 am
0 articles 0 photos 1 comment
The Young Writers Workshop at Simon’s Rock is the perfect place for teenager writers to really grow into themselves. I attended the program in the summer of 2015, as a rising Senior in high school, and then worked as an RA during the summer of 2017. As a high schooler, I loved writing, but I had never really put the pedal to the metal– YWW changed all that. In three weeks, YWW made me a better writer simply by virtue of giving me so much time to write. Students are in workshop every weekday from morning until afternoon, and produce a huge volume of work during that time. As any writer knows, half the battle of writing is just doing it. YWW gives young writers a space to concentrate, and gives them concrete assignments to inspire them and motivate them. The workshop leaders are very experienced, entertaining, and inspiring. Students meet one-on-one with workshop leaders to check in and receive personalized feedback– there are no “grades” at YWW, giving young writers the confidence to take risks and experiment, knowing that their mentors will have their backs and help push them forward. Outside of workshop, students will share poetry, sing songs, and just generally engage in creative pursuits together. Aside from workshops during the day, the RA's plan a variety of fun activities for students– capture the flag, open mic nights, songwriting workshops, zine making, lip-sync battles, karaoke, trips to the lake, movie nights, and tea and cookie get-togethers are just a few of the things my co-workers and I planned as RA’s last summer. Students also have the opportunity to sign up for off-campus trips to various plays, musicals, and cool sites around Western MA. I am now attending Oberlin College in Ohio as a Creative Writing major– our program is quite prestigious and is one of the few undergraduate programs out there that separates English from Creative Writing. Looking back, I can say quite confidently that YWW was a huge turning point in my life. I had always loved to write, but YWW inspired me to focus and create like never before, and gave me the confidence to believe that this was really something I could pursue on the college level. I would highly recommend the Young Writers Workshop at Simon’s Rock for any teen writer who is looking for like-minded creatives, a beautiful setting, and an inspiring, confidence-boosting experience.

Samosa said...
on Feb. 2 2014 at 8:50 pm
  I was rather nervous to go to Simon's Rock because I can be rather shy and reserved at times. Suffice to say, the day before the program I was freaking out but by the dinner of the first day/ sign in day I was actually feeling a lot better. Socially, it was a wonderful atmosphere. It's a small group of people so you end up knowing almost everyone, if only to say hello, and you definitely find people who you can click with. In the workshop and out there is a supportive, accepting, judge free environment. The writing workshop itself was really exciting. I'm gonna go out on a limb here and say you like to write, in which case exploring with words for about 5 hours each day with 12 other people who are as fascinated with words and stories as you are is actually pretty fantastic. Each day my workshop leader had new and different writing activities for us, modes and manners of writing that were very different from routine English class practices. I honestly looked forward to everyday of the workshop and had a lot of fun hanging out with people after classes, procrastinating homework. Disclaimer: there is a bit of homework, but its not too bad and you can really do with it whatever you want. I made really good friends, memories, and written pieces at the Simon's Rock program.   

cherries said...
on Feb. 1 2014 at 7:37 pm
To whomever this may concern: this program is so incredible that I am having a hard time putting my experiences into words. To start off, the people there are amazing. The staff and all of my fellow writers were honestly the kindest and most supportive group of people I have ever met. I got along with everyone I talked to, hands down. Even though we might not realize it, writing and a dedication to literature form incredibly strong bonds between people- regardless of whether or not we like the same books or enjoy the same genre. I could rave about the workshop for hours- the food, the location, the beautiful landscape and lake,the gym, the bonfires, the countless activities we had the opportunity to participate in, all of the lovely perks one could discover. I will remember these three weeks my whole life. Only fond memories of beautiful people and moments remain and I will cherish them forever. If it isn't crystal clear already- I loved it so much I would have stayed there all summer long if I could have! I can wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone who would like to go. They were the best few weeks of my life and I would 100% go there again if I had the chance. P.S. don't forget a fan or an extra 20$ should one not fit in your suitcase. It is a definite MUST as the rooms can get very hot and almost impossible to sleep in even with the windows open. And DO go to the book barn. The selection of books is huge, the books are dirt cheap, they offer free coffee, they have a beautiful garden to sit and relax in with a complimentary cat and it is called a barn for a reason. Need I say more?

berkums333 said...
on Jan. 15 2014 at 11:19 pm
I attended the workshop this previous summer, and I absolutely loved it. There is not one thing I can think of that I disliked about it. While there, I felt safe which was important to me seeing as I came from the West Coast. I learned a ton about myself while there, and I wouldn't trade my experience at Simon's Rock for anything.    While there, I learned that there is no right way to write. I became more confident in my writing as well as in myself as a person. The intimate group setting was a huge positive for me. It was important for me to hear what my peers and instructor had to say about my writing. I felt no competition between my peers and I. The learning atmosphere was very free and non-competitive, which I loved.   The facilities were very camp like and homey but clean at the same time.The trees that surrounded the school only made my experience that much better. I was able to walk 10 feet from my room into the woods and write or read. There was a recreation area with a pool, rock climbing, basketball courts, volleyball courts, a track, etc that was used a lot by my peers (can't say I used it a lot). The campus and the surrounding area were absolutely breathtaking.   The fieldtrips offered were very fun as well. I had the opportunity to see multiple plays, go bowling, go to a book shack in New York, and more. I have to say, the food was pretty good as well. As a vegetarian, I was pleased that they had so many vegan options available.    Thinking back to this past summer makes me long for it again. I made lasting relationships and memories, and I would definitely attend again if I could. I can confidently say that the Young Writer's Workshop at Bard College at Simon's Rock was one of the best experiences of my adolescent life.

Josh H. said...
on Feb. 11 2013 at 5:56 pm
When I first heard of the Young Writer’s Workshop, it sounded like  a program straight out of a dream – and to my surprise, it lived up to the hype. The campus itself is beautiful, and there are plenty of wonderful nooks and crannies spread all over it. A stone bench by the classrooms was my particular favorite spot. The workshop groups were small, and it led to me really bonding with all of the people in my group. I would definitely encourage anyone attending to really put themselves out there in workshop – the more you share the more you improve! It was a truly wonderful experience, and the YWW is definitely a great thing for any young, aspiring writer to do.

cantwont said...
on Jan. 20 2013 at 10:03 pm
I am so glad I participated in Simon's Rock. The people, the scenery, the teachers, everything was great. Well, except for the food. I lost about five pounds because it was so bad. Other than that though, I highly recommend this program. I learned an incredible amount about myself as a writer and a person. I was suprised at how much writing there was, and given that I am dyslexic it was a bit of a struggle, but it was all well worth it. I must say, however, that your experience can vary greatly depending on the teacher you have and the kids in your class. 

Carson said...
on Jan. 4 2013 at 10:52 am
My experience at Simon's Rock was something truly singular (in a good way!). Unlike other writing programs, the Simon's Rock program focuses not only on the organizational aspects of writing, but on the true meaning behind writing. I learned an incredible amount during my time at Simon's Rock and I made wonderful friends. I highly recommend this program. You won't find this individual program anywhere else.

brookemasonc said...
on Jan. 3 2013 at 6:28 pm
I attended the writing workshop last summer with high expectations. Having attended a different writing program the previous summer, I had an idea of what to expect. Bard at Simon's Rock was hands down my favorite. Three weeks was just enough time to immerse myself in my writing, make great friends and get in touch with my voice. The creative atmosphere was stimulating and inspiring. The most beneficial part for me was the one on one meetings each week with my seminar leader. I left with a body of work that I was proud of and people that I will never forget.

Sasha W. said...
on Jan. 16 2012 at 3:15 pm
I would definitely recommend the Simon's Rock Young Writer's program--I enjoyed it very much. It is a rather intensive program, for I did not expect that we would be doing as much writing (in class, as well as outside of class for homework and for our weekly portfolios) as we did over the course of the three weeks. Simply the fact that I had so much practice--coupled with with valuable feedback from my fellow group members and from my group leader on our weekly one-on-one conferences--was what I consider most responsible for the improvement I felt in my writing. Furthermore, the program also taught me many things about writing as a craft, and I feel that the program taught me to approach my writing more seriously than I had before. I enjoyed the privilege of being part of a network of open, friendly, and very talented student writers, and I feel that my time outside of class was valuably spent.

Madison W. said...
on Jan. 14 2012 at 6:33 pm
My time at Simon's Rock was, without a doubt, my best and most memorable high school experience thus far. What I learned about myself as a writer, along the people that I met while there, truly made an impact on my life. I feel that I left Simon's Rock with a much broader understanding of what it means to be a writer than I had when I arrived. It's a wonderful feeling knowing that you're a part of such a special, talented, community of young writers who are just as passionate about language and expression as you are. If you truly love writing, Simon's Rock is by far the best place to be--I promise that you won't regret it.

Claire,H said...
on Jan. 14 2012 at 2:43 pm
I would highly recommend this workshop to anyone interested in becoming a better writer. Coming from the Twin Cities in Minnesota, the Massachusetts heat/forests were far from my comfort zone. However, it didn't take long to get used to, and nothing helps writing more than being pushed outside your comfort zone. All of the workshop leaders were fantastic and well-prepared. The students that went were also phenomenal. It was amazing to be surrounded by people passionate about writing, reading, and life in general. I left Bard with a better sense of self. I cannot express my gratitude in a single paragraph about my experience, so I will just tell anyone interested to apply. It is an opportunity that shouldn't be passed up. I made lifelong friends at Bard, not to mention a portfolio of writing I am proud of. My final thoughts would be, apply, attend, and experience! Feel free to ask any questions!

on Jan. 14 2012 at 10:53 am
Leslie,S SILVER, Chicago, Illinois
6 articles 0 photos 1 comment
This workshop was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. It was amazing to be surrounded with passionate, talented, and kind students from around the world who were just as excited about writing as I was. For three weeks I produced an unreal amount of writing, and I am so proud of the final pieces I crafted. There are no words that can fully describe how much I appreciated and enjoyed my time spent at Simon's Rock, but to suffice I highly encourage anyone serious about expanding their creative writing abilities to apply to this program. It is life changing.

on Oct. 9 2011 at 8:43 pm
tessarella BRONZE, Belmont, Massachusetts
2 articles 0 photos 3 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Writing consists of personal attempts to discover Truth." -George Orwell

Best month of my life! All of the teachers and people were fabulous. I came out of the progam how with stronger writing skills, and I was proud of the work that I wrote there. Many of my peers there had been to serveral writing camps, and said that this was by far the best.

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