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Writing Courses

Notice for Session 1 and Hong Kong Sites: In light of the rapidly evolving COVID-19 pandemic, CTY, in close coordination with Johns Hopkins University leadership, has made the difficult decision to cancel Session 1 of our 2020 Summer Programs, along with all courses at our Hong Kong sites. Please visit our online information center to learn more.

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 a foundation for success in AP and college-level courses, and with the confidence to express their voices through many different genres of writing.

Writing Courses
Please refer to our Eligibility page for minimum test score requirements for writing courses. Sample syllabi for all courses are also available with each course description.

Writing Course Descriptions and Syllabi

Writing Your World

The best nonfiction is vivid, informative, and gripping. Nonfiction writers tell stories that explore and explain the world subject by subject. Nonfiction can startle readers with new perspectives on social science, reveal mysteries in medicine, bring life and character to history, and build suspense into feats of engineering. In memoirs, biographies, and investigations, nonfiction writers challenge their readers to understand people different from themselves, to engage with new and stimulating ideas, and to broaden their views of the world.

Participants in this writing workshop unite facts with figurative language to create vibrant, memorable nonfiction. In daily exercises, students generate ideas and record observations. They experiment with literary devices, acquire techniques for organizing ideas, create meaningful page transitions, and learn how to begin and end their works effectively. Students leave the course with a deeper understanding of the strategies for strong nonfiction writing. The close-reading, critical thinking, writing, and revision skills developed in this course prepare students for AP and college-level coursework across the disciplines.

Note: Students who have taken CTY's Creative Nonfiction should not take this class.

Sample texts: In Fact: The Best of Creative Nonfiction, Gutkind, ed.; To Show and To Tell: The Craft of Literary Nonfiction, Phillip Lopate; materials compiled by the instructor.

Session 1: Canceled
Session 2: Baltimore, Lancaster, Los Angeles, Saratoga Springs

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Fiction and Poetry

Saul Bellow said, "A writer is a reader moved to emulation.” In this class, students draw inspiration from the published works, journals, and rough drafts of writers such as Alice Munro, John Updike, Rita Dove, and Li-Young Lee. Students examine a range of content, techniques, styles, and structures to discover what it means to read like a writer. For instance, they may debate the distinction between the realistic and the fantastic in Gabriel García Márquez’s “I Sell My Dreams” or the value of concrete imagery in Elizabeth Bishop’s “The Fish.”

Beginning with the spark of an idea and moving through the drafting stages, students write short fiction and poetry in various forms. Under the instructor's guidance, students provide frequent feedback on each other’s drafts. The workshop format of the course creates an enriching space that fosters students’ development as writers. Students not only learn to give and receive criticism with tact and grace, but also to refine their personal aesthetics, building a communal understanding of how voice, style, and structure constitute strong poetry and prose.

Note: This course focuses on realistic literary fiction and poetry. The genres of science fiction, fantasy, romance, and mystery are not part of this course.

Sample texts: An anthology such as Best American Short Stories of the Century, Updike, ed.; The Making of a Poem: A Norton Anthology of Poetic Forms, Strand and Boland; materials compiled by the instructor.

Session 1: Canceled
Session 2: Lancaster, Seattle

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Persuasion and Propaganda

Comic book heroes punching dictators in the face; aircrafts papering the ground beneath them with thousands of pamphlets; troops goose-stepping in front of military arsenals. Many types of propaganda are easy to recognize, especially historical ones. But what about contemporary ones, like bot-generated tweets, mud-slinging political ads, misleading advertisements, and fact-distorting TV news reports? Without any objective distance from current events—and with ever subtler techniques for influencing opinions and beliefs—how can we tell what’s “fake news”? Where is the line between truthiness and truth?

In this course, students examine nonfiction sources from political systems around the world to analyze the numerous ways people have swayed others to their points of view, tracing these efforts from history through to the present day. Students learn to identify flawed premises as they develop the rhetorical strategies necessary to question and dissect competing messages, becoming critical media consumers. During the course, they will use these skills to construct and deliver their own persuasive arguments in a variety of forms, including written compositions, oral presentations, brief films, and public speeches.

Note: Students just completing grade 7 are encouraged to take CTY’s Creative Nonfiction or Fiction and Poetry before taking this course. This course is intended for students who have completed grade 8 or above and who plan to continue on to AP English Language and Composition.

Sample text: Propaganda and Persuasion, Jowett and O’Donnell; Techniques of Propaganda and Persuasion, Shabo.

Session 1: Canceled
Session 2: Not offered

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Utopias and Dystopias

Prerequisite: Any CTY Intensive Studies writing or humanities course, CTY Online’s Crafting the Essay, or at least a “B” in ninth-grade English.

From Plato’s Republic to Yevgeny Zamyatin’s We, utopian and dystopian literature often examines the fine line between a perfect and an oppressive society. Through extensive critical and creative writing, students in this course explore how utopian and dystopian works are constructed and how they can be used to engage some of the most pressing sociopolitical concerns of the times.

Students In this course develop skills as both scholars and creators of utopian and dystopian literature. As scholars, students identify, discuss, and write about the underlying rules, laws, and ideologies relating to economics, politics, gender roles, religions, and technologies within the works they examine. For example, after reading Alan Moore and David Lloyd’s V for Vendetta or Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Lathe of Heaven, students may write an essay about dystopian protagonists and how they create change in unjust, oppressive societies. Likewise, students might compare gender roles in Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s Herland and Octavia Butler’s The Parable of the Sower. Students have the opportunity to construct and share their own utopian or dystopian visions.

Students produce several major writing projects, including both critical and creative work. They develop their writing through an intense process of drafting, critiquing in workshops, and revising.

Sample text: The Republic, Plato; The Parable of the Sower, Butler; materials compiled by the instructor.

Session 1: Canceled
Session 2: Lancaster

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