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Writing Courses

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 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. The following writing courses are listed below:

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 in social science, reveal mysteries in medicine, bring life and character to history, and built 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, techniques for organizing ideas, creating meaningful transitions, and beginning and ending their works effectively. Students leave the course with a deeper understanding of the strategies and practices of 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: Baltimore, Lancaster, Los Angeles, Saratoga Springs
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 comprise 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 asBest 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: Carlisle, Lancaster
Session 2: Lancaster

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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, 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 the 7th grade 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 8th grade or above and who plan to continue on to AP English Language and Composition.

Sample text: New course.

Session 1: Los Angeles
Session 2: Lancaster

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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: Lancaster
Session 2: Lancaster

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The Art of Fiction

Prerequisite: The Digital Revolution or Utopias and Dystopias, or any of CTY’s Critical Essay summer courses (last offered in 2016), or CTY Online’s Writing Analysis and Persuasion.

This course provides an immersion into contemporary literary fiction, particularly the short story. In addition to writing short stories, students read and discuss works from many genres, primarily by modern and contemporary fiction writers such as Flannery O’Connor, Tim O’Brien, Kurt Vonnegut, and Jamaica Kincaid. Students learn to hear the written word with a writer’s ear and examine the principles and practices of fiction writing such as plot, theme, and character development. The course strongly emphasizes comprehensive revision based on workshop comments and conferences with the instructor. Students leave the course with a working knowledge of the principle tenets of writing fiction and a portfolio of their own polished stories.

Students in this course are welcome to explore genres such as science fiction, fantasy, romance, and mystery, as well as literary fiction.

Note: Students who have taken CTY's Advanced Fiction should not take this class.

Sample texts: The Story and Its Writer, Charters;American Short Story Masterpieces, Carver and Jenks; 20thCentury Ghosts, Hill; materials compiled by the instructor.

Session 1: Lancaster
Session 2: Not offered

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