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Brown creative writing summer program

Writing and Literature Track

The Writing and Literature track encourages writers to find their voice and share it with the world. Students will spend their mornings learning from Barnard instructors in courses such as Screenwriting, Dystopia in the Margins, and Poetry, on the same campus where writers like Greta Gerwig, Zora Neale Hurson, Jhumpa Lahiri got their start. Afternoons will be spent in intensives focused on developing a writing portfolio, getting published, and careers for writers.

Program Structure

This track is residential with the option of commuting. Classes take place on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday from 9:30 AM- 12:00 PM and Tuesday and Thursday afternoons from 2:00- 4:30 PM EST. Enrichment and student life activities will be held in both the early day and evening time frames (10am EST- 8pm EST)

The Curriculum

Screenwriting: The Short Form (Course Full)

Instructor: Helen Kaplan

From film festivals to our phones, short films are everywhere. Bring your stories to the screen in this immersive workshop, which will demystify the art of screenwriting and give you the tools you need to write a great short script. You will learn how to grab viewers by their collective shirt collar and more importantly, hold their attention until the final credits roll. Emphasis will be placed on visual storytelling, the classic three-act structure, plot, character development, conflict, and dialogue. While sharing work will be the heart of the course, we’ll also take full advantage of New York City’s many great film screenings and festivals as well as its ample opportunities for eavesdropping and people-watching – an excellent source of story inspiration. By the end of the course, each student will have written three short screenplays as well as revised one of these scripts.

Time: Mon, Tues, Thurs, and Friday 9:30 AM- 12:00 PM EST

Tues and Thurs afternoons from 2:00- 4:30 PM EST.

Writing Harlem: Identity, Image, and Ideology in the Capital of Black America

Instructor: Jonathan Gill

This course uses a diverse variety of materials, from poetry and fiction to music, art, and film, to manifestoes, sermons, and political speeches, as well as walking tours, to offer a broad and deep introduction to the cultural history of Uptown Manhattan. While African-American Harlem forms the focal point of our investigation, the wide varieties of identities that have left their mark on Northern Manhattan, from the Native American, Dutch, British, and early American periods, to the rise of German, Irish, Italian, Jewish, and Latinx Harlem, to the controversial “New Renaissance” currently underway, are also of interest.

Time: Mon, Tues, Thurs, and Friday 9:30 AM- 12:00 PM EST

Tues and Thurs afternoons from 2:00- 4:30 PM EST.

Dystopia in the Margins

Instructor: Mimi Wong

“Dystopia in the Margins” will explore dystopian fiction from the perspective of minority writers, specifically those belonging to the Asian diaspora. Over the course of three weeks, we will read and discuss three contemporary novels: Severance by Ling Ma, Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro, and On Such a Full Sea by Chang-rae Lee. The course is designed to cultivate critical reading and writing skills, while engaging with topics such as identity, race, class, globalization, and the impact of capitalism.

Time: Mon, Tues, Thurs, and Friday 9:30 AM- 12:00 PM EST

Tues and Thurs afternoons from 2:00- 4:30 PM EST.

The Arguments in Your Head: Playwriting Workshop

Instructor: Ella Boureau

In The Arguments in Your Head: Playwriting Workshop, we’ll explore and develop the foundational skills, techniques, and instincts that you’ll need to write a full-length play. The goal of this class is not to write a perfect play (doesn’t exist!) Rather, the goal is to let go of what you think you should be writing to impress others and instead learn to become the stewards of your own urgent questions and aesthetics principles. This workshop will be process-focused rather than outcome-focused. As your teacher, my concern is not perfection— I care about pulse. Everyone will be bringing in new, unfinished work that is a little raw and uncomfortable. No one knows what they’re doing, we’re all in the same boat! My goal for you is not to get stuck when you get lost (because if I do my job right you will get lost), but instead I hope to give you tools that help you find your way in the dark, take bold risks, and above all keep going. Every play is different and has its own rules. In order to fashion those rules autonomously we have to learn to listen deeply, follow an inarticulate hunch, and above all, be willing to fail. Be brave, playwright! This is where the wildness lives, where all the scary fun is to be had. And in the end… it’s just words on a page, ink on paper— you can always tear it up and start over. By the end of this class, you will have written a draft of a full-length play, learned how to give thoughtful feedback on the plays of your classmates, and developed a more critical eye to the plays that you read.

Time: Mon, Tues, Thurs, and Friday 9:30 AM- 12:00 PM EST

Tues and Thurs afternoons from 2:00- 4:30 PM EST.

Poetry on Page and Stage: Spoken Word Poetics

Instructor: Quincy Scott Jones

Poetry on Page and Stage offers students an introduction to the craft of poetry with a focus on the transition from textual performance to oral performance. As a hybrid of creative writing and performance workshops, students will spend half the semester focusing on the written word. Students will perform weekly exercises to practice and explore traditional forms, discuss predecessors of American performance poetry, and offer critical exegesis on each other’s work. The second half of the class will be spent in performance. We will study current spoken word performances, voice training techniques, and intersections between acting and poetic theories. Students will critique each other’s individual deliveries, collaborate on group performances, and ultimately construct a performance synthesizing a semester’s worth of work. Readings will include such authors as Sonia Sanchez, Bushra Rehman, Franny Choi, Morgan Parker, and Ntosake Shange.

Time: Mon, Tues, Thurs, and Friday 9:30 AM- 12:00 PM EST

Tues and Thurs afternoons from 2:00- 4:30 PM EST.

Citizen Sleuth: Writing Compelling True Crime Stories from New York City Cases

Instructor: Mary Roma

Bring your love of truth, justice, mystery, and New York City history to this writing class. Studying the elements of the city’s well-known, and not so well-known crimes, can open a lens into the race, class, and gender structures at work in our metropolis, and reveal whom they benefit, and whom they harm. The current explosion in True Crime books, podcasts, blogs, and documentaries, and the fact that women are taking control of more of these narratives cannot be ignored. Students will choose an actual criminal case from New York’s recent or not so recent history (e.g. Typhoid Mary), and write a nonfiction story driven by their point of view, which will emerge from shorter pieces and research done during the class. The coursework will cover best writing practices, such as learning the skills of legally sound, ethical reporting, interviewing people on sensitive matters, and using public records—all in the interest of uncovering and shaping the raw material into a story that needs to be told, for victims who may not always have the tools to tell them. Readings will include Michelle McNamara’s I’ll Be Gone in The Dark, Becky Cooper’s We Keep the Dead Close, James Polchin’s Indecent Advances, and excerpts from Christopher Payne’s photography book, North Brother Island, the Last Unknown Place in New York City. We will take tours of public archives, the Museum of the City of New York, Central Park, and The East River, listen to Laci Mosley’s Scam Goddess, and view documentaries and films such as Strong Island, The Witness (about Kitty Genovese), and Summer of Sam. Experts on various topics will also participate as occasional guest speakers in the class.

Time: Mon, Tues, Thurs, and Friday 9:30 AM- 12:00 PM EST

Tues and Thurs afternoons from 2:00- 4:30 PM EST.

The Instructors

Quincy Scott Jones

Poetry on Page and Stage: Spoken Word Poetics

Quincy Scott Jones is an educator and author of two books of poetry: The T-Bone Series (Whirlwind Press, 2009) and How to Kill Yourself Instead of Your Children (C&R Press, 2021). His work has appeared in the African American Review, The North American Review, the Bellingham Review, Love Jawns: A Mixtape, and The Feminist Wire as well as anthologies Resisting Arrest: Poems to Stretch the Sky, COVID Chronicles: A Comics Anthology, and Black Lives Have Always Mattered: A Collection of Essays, Poems, and Personal Narratives. With Nina Sharma he co-curates Blackshop, a column that thinks about allyship between BIPOC artist. His graphic narrative, Black Nerd, is in the works.

Helen Kaplan

Screenwriting: The Short Form

Helen Kaplan holds an MFA in Film from Columbia University and a BA from Brown University. She has made numerous short films including the award-winning Return to Sender, was an Associate Producer on the PBS documentary, New York, and authored the chapter on Subplots in Writing Movies (Bloomsbury USA). Helen teaches screenwriting, directing, and film production at Hunter College.

Jonathan Gill

Writing Harlem: Identity, Image, and Ideology in the Capital of Black America

Jonathan Gill is professor of Humanities at Amsterdam University College. The author of the best-selling Harlem: The Four Hundred Year History, he has a PhD in American literature and culture from Columbia University and has taught at the University of Amsterdam, Columbia, Fordham, the City College of New York, and the Manhattan School of Music, publishing and lecturing widely in the fields of African American and Jewish Studies, Modernist poetry, vernacular music, the global counterculture of the 1960s, and the cultures of intolerance.

Ella Boureau

The Arguments in Your Head: Playwriting Workshop

Ella Boureau is a teacher and playwright and recent graduate of the Hunter College MFA Playwriting program. She is interested in rage and grief: when they are funny, when they are scary, when they are heartbreaking, and when they just get so twisted up that they break into something else entirely. Her plays include: FUCKING AJAX!: An Appalachian Gay Soul Suicide Musical (Zarkower Award for First Year Playwriting); CLAMS, CLAMS, CLAMS, CLAMS, CLAMS, CLAMS, CLAMS, CLAMS, CLAMS, CLAMS; and Helps to Hate You a Little: a Lovestory (Cloud City, Dixon Place, Fresh Fruit Festival @The Wild Project). She has taught internationally and will spend the Spring 2022 semester teaching Playwriting at the Ruth Asawa School of the Arts in San Francisco.

Mimi Wong

Dystopia in the Margins

Mimi Wong writes about art, culture, and literature. For her work engaging with contemporary art by artists from the Asian diaspora, she was awarded the Andy Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant. Her writing has been published in The Believer , Catapult , Electric Literature , Hyperallergic , Literary Hub , and Refinery29 . She is Editor-in-Chief of the literary magazine The Offing and a part-time lecturer at The New School. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Columbia university summer creative writing program

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Duke university creative writing summer program

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