Skip Navigation

We are unable to take calls at this time, though your questions are important to us. Please send them to for the quickest response. Thank you.

Writing Courses

Why take a Writing Course?

Technology has revolutionized the way writing applies to our personal and professional lives, and the need for students to develop good writing skills long before they enter college and the workforce has grown. Students in CTY writing courses master critical writing skills by engaging in class discussions, close readings, writing exercises, and workshops. CTY’s fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and analytical essay writing courses follow the same model used in Johns Hopkins University’s writing seminars. Instructors are typically working writers who hold advanced degrees in creative writing, composition, or literature. Students complete CTY writing courses with the confidence to express their voices through many different genres of writing.

Writing Courses

Writing courses require a minimum score on one of the designated tests. Learn more about the requirements for writing courses.

Please note that the sample syllabi are meant to provide an idea of the level of the course and whether or not the content area interests you. CTY instructors are given guidelines within which they each develop their own syllabi. Choice and sequencing of topics within the content area, as well as specific activities, labs, and assignments, will vary.

Crafting the Essay

Participants in this course examine the concepts and practices authors use to craft engaging personal essays; they also learn how to enrich their own nonfiction prose by using the literary devices and figurative language common in fiction and poetry.

Through textual analysis and class discussion of readings by creative nonfiction writers such as Annie Dillard, Richard Rodriguez, and Charles Simic, students learn the hallmarks of effective personal essay writing. In their own work, students experiment with imagery and language; tone and mood; and a variety of structures.

In addition to daily readings, informal writing assignments, and regular workshops, students complete several major writing projects. They gain a clearer sense of the skills and practices of successful writers, as well as greater knowledge of their own strengths as authors. In addition, they leave the course with critical reading skills that transcend disciplines and will help them in future coursework.

Sample texts: Back to the Lake: A Reader for Writers, Cooley; materials compiled by the instructor.

Session 1: Allentown, Bristol, Haverford, Santa Cruz
Session 2: Allentown, Haverford, Hong Kong, Santa Cruz

Back to top

Whodunit? Mystery and Suspense in Literature and Film

This writing class introduces students to an intriguing genre of popular culture: mystery. What elements create a mystery? How do cinematography and sound build suspense in film? What are the literary merits of the mystery genre, and what do mysteries tell us about our culture?

Students read classic mystery writers such as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Edgar Allan Poe, and Agatha Christie, and study clips from a variety of films, including early horror classics and noir from the ’40s and ’50s. By examining literary techniques such as characterization and plot, as well as film techniques such as camera angles and lighting, students analyze the ways writers and directors manipulate these elements to build suspense and heighten tension on the page and onscreen.

Students apply their knowledge of mysteries in formal critical essays and in their own brief stories and scenes.

Sample texts: Great Tales and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe, Poe; The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Doyle; And Then There Were None, Christie; Red Harvest, Hammett.

Session 1: Allentown, Santa Cruz, Seattle
Session 2: Bristol, Haverford

Back to top

The Graphic Novel

One of the most innovative literary forms of recent years, the graphic novel uses a combination of words and sequential art to convey a narrative. With characters like the Filipina-American narrator in Lynda Barry’s One Hundred Demons, the Bosnian survivors in Joe Sacco’s Safe Area Goražde, and the AIDS educator in Judd Winick’s Pedro and Me, the graphic novel has become a significant medium for tackling a wide range of historical, social, and political issues. In this writing-intensive course, students discover how graphic novels use words and images to expand traditional narrative structures and conventions.

By examining literary techniques such as tone, flashback, and characterization, as well as visual elements such as framing, shading, and perspective, students analyze how artists and writers marry visual art and literature. Using a text such as Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics to guide them, students learn the particulars of the genre before proceeding to more advanced critical analysis. For example, students might examine Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ politicized deconstruction of superheroes in Watchmen, or they may discuss the use of extended metaphor in Art Spiegelman’s Holocaust-set masterpiece Maus.

Throughout the session, students apply their knowledge of the graphic novel in formal critical essays and creative pieces that explore techniques of sequential art, such as layout and plot breakdowns.

Note: This course includes some controversial material; it is recommended for students who have completed grade 9 or higher.

Sample texts: Understanding Comics, McCloud; American Born Chinese, Yang; Dropsie Avenue, Eisner; Watchmen, Moore and Gibbons.

Session 1: Haverford
Session 2: Not offered

Back to top