Hundreds of rising high school students will descend upon Sweet Briar College in the coming month as the school welcomes back the University of Virginia’s renowned Young Writers Workshop for its second year in residence.
The events will be held in two sessions: Session I, for rising ninth- through 12th-graders, from June 23 to July 5; and Session II for rising 10th-graders through college freshmen from July 7 to July 26.
Each will bring about 85 to 95 participants, representing more than 20 U.S. states and four countries, for intensive studio workshops in one of five genres: fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry, songwriting, and scriptwriting for screen and stage.
Since its founding in 1982 as a residential experience for teen writers, the YWW had called the UVa Grounds home. That changed two years ago when widespread building renovations prompted founder and director Margo Figgins to evaluate her options.
In 2012, the program was held on Sweet Briar’s campus, joining a flourishing arts community that includes the College’s Blue Ridge Summer Institute for Young Artists (June 16 to July 7), Endstation Theatre Company’s Blue Ridge Summer Theatre Festival (May 31 to July 21) and its Playwrights Initiative (July 8 to 31).
The Young Writers Workshop always strives to strike a balance between “solitude and community” to allow its students to “live as a writer,” according to its website.
“Sweet Briar has made it possible for our teaching writers and program administrators to be in residence as well,” Figgins said, noting most previously stayed in their Charlottesville homes. “The ease of sharing expertise, information and programming creates a fluidity in the day-to-day workings of the program and contributes to a larger sense of community when everyone is present. It’s like the hum of a beehive — though this year’s metaphor will have to involve cicadas.”
A typical day for the young writers will include morning labs that are follow-ups to the daily intensive studio workshop taught by a professional, published writer in the genre. Independent writing time is built in, along with group meetings and cultural or social events. Students also take elective mini-classes that include arts, recreation and experimental reading and writing options.
Students arrive prepared to explore a theme — this year it is “(R)evolution” — over the course of the session. The first writing challenge comes on day one and, from there, they begin building a session portfolio, which will include both polished pieces and works in progress that they’ll continue to share with other alumni after they leave.
The Writers Café is the culminating event, where everyone performs an original work for the whole community.