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Creative Writing Intensive: The Living Word

“Poetry is a means of seeing invisible things and saying unspeakable things about them.”

– Howard Nemerov

“If there is a book you really want to read but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”

-Toni Morrison

At a time when much of our lives are subject to strange and invisible influences – media trends, social and political tensions, the current health crisis – we need the skills of creative expression more than ever. In this workshop (for beginning and advanced writers), you will explore poetry and storytelling, their history and future, and even challenge ideas about modern discourse. We’ll examine some older voices and discover a few emerging ones, including your own. You will create new work using college-level prompts, apply professional tools for editing, learn how to submit work to publishers, and cultivate a performance. No previous experience is needed.

This creative summer class will meet every day, six days a week for writing, reading, discussion, games, field trips and more. You will produce an anthology of new writing with your fellow students and participate in a live reading. Bring notebooks, writing instruments and a few examples of writers you enjoy. You’ll also have plenty of access to computers, reference material, and dreams.

Creative writing workshops are open admission. Instructors will work with your child at their level. Your child will improve and learn new skills, whether they are a beginner or have been a writer for years.

Below is a list of practical materials and resources you’ll need to have for our class:

  • Notebook
  • Pen or pencil
  • Optional – laptop with a word processing program (Microsoft Word preferred)


And here is a list of random things you may also want to have ready:

  • a good memory
  • a bad memory
  • a favorite time of day
  • a favorite kind of weather
  • a Good Luck charm
  • a random phrase or lyric that keeps playing in your head
  • a dream
  • a poem or story you admire by someone else
  • an awareness that all of the above can change at any moment!

Some (but not all) of our routines:

Each class begins with a five-minute Free Write. This is a basic exercise to get us warmed up. (Free Writes do not have to be in the form of poems or stories and they don’t have to be any good! I’ll say that again, they don’t have to be any good. Don’t worry about having to share it, either.)

Be prepared to write during every class. A willingness to experiment and take risks is encouraged. We will also be emphasizing discussions of craft, ways to test its limits (if any), and what it’s like to be a writer in the present day. Likewise, you may even contribute your own ideas from prompts and exercises. Indeed, when our two weeks are over, you’ll be able to lead your own workshop.

A day in the summer writing program consists of writing, reading, discussion time, and critiquing. Students develop close-reading skills as they examine a variety of stories and poetry in terms of craft, and continue to explore the elements of craft (such as characterization, plot, dialogue, and setting) through writing exercises. Students develop their most promising pieces and workshop them with their classmates, receiving thorough feedback from peers and the teacher. Students then revise and polish these pieces and present their best work at the end of the program.

Students should be able to maintain focus and write at least 500 words a day. That said, the day is broken up by discussion time, reading time, and writing time, and groups tend to work in a few different places (the classroom, the library, outside).

Finally, a few notes on sharing your work. These guidelines are adapted from the PDX Writers group of Portland, OR:

  • We share our pieces by posting them and/or reading them aloud to the group, but writers always have the option to pass on sharing.
  • Writers agree to maintain the confidence of other writers in the workshop. Even after the writing has been presented, it still belongs to the writer.
  • Since the writing in the workshop has just been written, it may not be ready for full critique. Therefore, we comment only on what is strong and memorable about the writing, giving the writer a chance to discover what is working well in the writing.
  • All writing is treated as art, as something made up. This means that when we respond, we talk about the ‘voice’ or ‘speaker’ in the poem, rather than referring to the writer or assuming that the poem reflects the writer’s own experience.
  • We focus on the written work, not on the writer or how the writing relates to the listener’s own experiences. This is the time for the writer to hear how we experience their work. Meanwhile, if we are reading our work, we listen quietly to people’s responses without explaining or apologizing. We don’t want to influence what others are finding in our words.

Brendan Constantine is the author of four books of poetry. His work has appeared in most of the nation’s standards including Poetry, Tin House, Best American Poetry, Prairie Schooner, Field, and Poem-A-Day. A popular performer, he has read for audiences throughout the U.S. and Europe, also appearing on NPR, TED ED, numerous podcasts, and YouTube. He holds an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts and currently teaches at the Windward School.  Since 2017, Brendan has been developing poetry workshops for people with Aphasia.

Twitter: @poetbrendan

14 – 17

July 16 – July 29, 2023
Two week session

Student Reading
Saturday July 29, 2023
Time and location TBD

Tuition, Room and Board

Day Student Tuition

Lab Fee

Health & Safety Fee

Enrollment Capacity
14 students
Total capacity includes Residential and Day Students

Brendan Constantine

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