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If You Love Words, You'll Love These Summer Writing Programs

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Young writer working on a laptop and with an notebook.

Even in this age of science and technology, there are high school students who dream of writing The Great American Novel.

Or, perhaps they imagine themselves as great essayists in The New Yorker, or starting the hot new blog, or cranking out a screenplay, or blowing the lid off city government with an investigative journalism piece. Whatever their aspirations, it’s important for high school students interested in writing to practice their craft with the best writers and mentors.

One way to do that is by attending a pre-college summer program that focuses on creative writing. While these writing programs are a chance to connect with some of the best writing teachers in the world, they also provide young writers with a network of like-minded souls who love the written word as much as they do. That peer support and contact is critical for students who love a solitary task like writing.

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There are scores of summer writing programs for teens, both in the United States and abroad. Some are residential programs that last a week or more and are held on college campuses; others are day programs in cities such as Boston. Some offer college credit. Some are elite camps that require writing samples and recommendations; others are open to all, depending on space. Some teach teens how to market their writing or pitch ideas. All provide a supportive atmosphere for teens who have imaginative worlds and characters swirling in their heads.

Here are 10 summer creative writing programs that are favorites with TeenLife members. Some offer day as well as residential options. Some are selective; others are first-come. All offer the chance to experience living on a college campus and exploring the environs while working on writing skills.

Boston College: Writers in the Making

This is a course for young writers entering grades 11 and 12. Students, part of a select group of 16, spend six weeks on the Boston College campus in the Boston suburbs and earn college credit. They take two courses from Boston College faculty, but the concentration is on writing and revising their own work. BC also offers a three-week-long creative writing seminar for teens that does not offer college credit.

Columbia University: Introduction to Journalism and Non-Fiction

Columbia University offers three-week Summer Immersion programs in New York City for high school students. Its course on journalism and non-fiction is open to students entering grades 9 or 10 in the fall. Students work on their own literary magazine, which is published at the end of the session, and focus on different skills depending on their chosen genre. Journalism students, for example, publish a news blog, while comedy writers get a chance to perform their work.

Duke University: Young Writers Camp

This two-week program, offered to both day and residential students, is designed to be a stress-free, non-judgmental experience for young writers who want to polish their skills. Students can choose to live on campus in Duke dorms. Day students also participate in evening activities. Writers can take classes ranging from poetry to superhero fiction. There are classes for both middle and high school students.

Emerging Writers Institute

This two-week summer program is held at university campuses such as Yale, UC Berkeley, Stanford, Georgetown and UCLA. Major focus areas vary from summer to summer, but in 2018 they included poetry, playwriting, nonfiction and short story. Students also take afternoon workshops in topics ranging from ‘zines to advertising copy. Applicants must submit a creative writing sample.

Emerson College: Pre-College Creative Writers Workshop

This five-week program in Boston is for high school writers entering grades 10, 11 and 12 who want to strengthen their writing skills. The program covers several genres, ranging from poetry to graphic novels. Students develop a portfolio of work and have a chance to do a reading at the end of the program.

Marist College: Summer Creative Writing Institute

The Summer Pre-College Creative Writing Program at Marist College (near Poughkeepsie, N.Y., on the Hudson River), is a two-week program that welcomes high school students who want to develop their own writing style and voice. Students who complete the program earn three transferable credits from Marist. New York City, about 80 miles south, is accessible by train.

Sarah Lawrence College: Writer’s Village

This three-week program at Sarah Lawrence in Bronxville, N.Y., accepts high school girls entering grades 10, 11 and 12. Students are accepted on a first-come basis but are asked to submit a writing sample for placement. Students work in poetry and fiction and create an anthology at the end of the summer.

Smith College: Young Women’s Writing Workshop

This select two-week program at Smith College in Northampton, Mass., is for high school girls who want to take their writing to the next level. All professors are published writers and poets, and classes are workshop style, offering chances for peer review. Participants also learn how to present their writing publicly and how to get published.

UConn Pre-College: Summer Creative Writing

The University of Connecticut offers a wide range of programs in its pre-college summer programs, including one on creative writing. The program is open to students entering grades 11 and 12 and lasts one week. In 2018, the theme is “Journeys and Monsters in Essay and Poem.” Students will both study the genre of heroic quests and craft their own stories.

Washington University: Creative Writing Institute

Washington University in St. Louis holds a two-week writing workshop for high school students entering grades 10, 11 or 12 with a GPA of 3.3 or better. Mornings are spent in workshops with other students, working on prompts. Afternoons are devoted to independent writing. At the end of the session, writers can read a final project during an open mic event.

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