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Since its inception more than 20 years ago, the Summer Writers Institute has offered students not only a place to improve their craft, but a way to re-ignite their passion for writing and become part of a supportive community.
Taking Advanced Personal Narrative with memoirist Kathleen Finneran was an intense, meaningful, and extremely rewarding experience. Professor Finneran's quality of instruction was beyond superb. From the first day of class, she challenged us to evolve as memoirists, to notice all the small details in our lives that could create a powerful personal narrative. She taught with endless compassion and fierce intellect, constructing an environment where a small group of strangers could feel comfortable sharing our most intimate and vulnerable struggles and joys in life. At the same time, because we turned in manuscripts in advance, we were able to workshop each author's manuscript twice, which allowed each of us to grow tremendously as writers on a technical level, improving our individual voices, the structures of our pieces, and sentence-level concerns. Professor Finneran deepened my love and respect for the art of memoir, and to this day I am immensely grateful."
- Thomas Le
The Summer Writers Institute at Washington University in St. Louis was the ideal place for me to reinvigorate my writing. The intensity of those two weeks helped me make quick, sustained progress toward my goal of writing every day. Kathleen Finneran led us through in-class and evening writing exercises that helped us practice the craft lessons she taught. And within the encouraging classroom environment she fostered, I learned to feel comfortable sharing my work in progress and receiving feedback from the writers around me.
The relative brevity of the institute makes it easier to commit to taking a risk, whether it’s trying out a new genre or returning to writing after a period of silence. And yet, those brief two weeks can kick-start remarkable changes. When I first signed up for SWI I was barely writing, and two years later I’m about to finish my certificate in creative writing from University College. I’m so grateful to the faculty and fellow writers I’ve met at SWI for supporting my growth.
I spent a portion of my summer vacation in a small classroom of strangers. It was, however, the most fruitful, fulfilling, and intense time I have had in a long time. A number of those “strangers” have now become dear friends. The experience of journeying with them on a personal plane made my writer's seminar a meaningful and memorable endeavor. The quality of instruction was superb. The feedback and sharing was essential. I came away with a greater sense of confidence and ability to proactively put pen to paper. Without question, a portion of future summers will find me in similar classrooms, learning new techniques and fostering new, dear friends."
- Peter Taylor
For me, the Washington University Summer Writers Institute is an urban summer camp for grownups—two invigorating weeks to read and write yet keep my day job thanks to the evenings/weekends format. Our instructor encouraged and challenged us during workshops and in-class exercises and one-on-one conferences. By session end, we left with a portfolio, a show-and-tell presentation of our literary influences, a recommended reading list, and a sense of optimism. If campers can learn to kayak, they can also learn to write better, read better--be better literary citizens. Highly recommend."
- Monica Groth Farrar
I came to the writer’s workshop with a bit of trepidation, having worked on my novel in relative isolation for the past fourteen months and having never exposed it to outside feedback or criticism. However, our instructor, novelist Eric Lundgren, was fantastic. He immediately put the class at ease, explaining that most all writers had the same hopes, worries and fears . . . . Over the course of the workshop, our instructor covered all the general areas in regards to the craft and mechanics of fiction: plot, conflict, pacing, POV, etc., as well as practical advice on jump-starting our creative process, marketing, querying agents and editors, and publishing, even allowing us to speak to his own agent, via Skype. It was tremendously helpful having access to the experience and insights of such a talented author and being able to expose my writing for critique in a close and supportive atmosphere. I gained immeasurable confidence from this workshop and would recommend it to anyone wishing to improve and advance their writing skills."
- Jo Hutson
The Summer Writers Institute was an amazing experience made possible by the people involved. Our class bonded almost immediately, and from that bond we told stories of depth and connected to those narratives. Overall, the experience was challenging and made me push myself as a writer. It was a soul-baring experience, and I would highly recommend it to anyone looking to develop as a writer and be a part of a great writing community."
- Peter Keough