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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

Creative Nonfiction

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 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.

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, Seattle
Session 2: Carlisle, Lancaster

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Freaks and Geeks in Popular Media

What are smart people like? From Mr. Spock in Star Trek to Temperance Brennan in Bones, images of intellectually advanced people abound in popular media. In this class, students learn the fundamentals of academic writing by evaluating how smart people are portrayed in books, television, film, and the news. They consider real-life figures such as Steve Jobs andLady Gaga (a CTY alumna), as well as fictional characters such as Roald Dahl’s Matilda Wormwood and Orson Scott Card’s Ender Wiggin.

Over the session, students complete several major writing projects through which they learn to develop arguments and support them with specific references from primary and secondary sources. Students explore topics such as the rewards and challenges of being an intellectually gifted person, and consider what specific depictions of intellectually gifted individuals reveal about how our culture views the value and role of the intellect. As they delve into these issues, students examine characters, stories, and images, some of which may be very familiar, from a more critical perspective, discovering new layers of meaning.

Students learn strategies for pre-writing, drafting, and revision. They focus on organizing arguments, gathering evidence, incorporating quotations, citing sources, and achieving coherence from sentence to sentence and paragraph to paragraph. They receive detailed feedback on their work, both in workshops with peers and individual conferences with instructors. Students leave the course with an understanding of the basic tenets of effective academic writing and with sharpened critical-thinking skills.

Sample texts: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Haddon; They Say, I Say: The Moves that Matter in Academic Writing, Graff and Birkenstein; materials compiled by the instructor.

Session 1: Carlisle
Session 2: Carlisle

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Wicked Art: Pictures, Pixels, and Pens

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

Art stirs people in inexplicable ways. Whether seeing divinity and humanity meet in Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel, appreciating new worlds through Nobou Uematsu’s Final Fantasy soundtracks, or understanding the pain felt by Elphaba in Wicked, art has the capability of evoking strong emotions. Yet, where do we find this meaning and how do we explain our sentiment in the absence of words?

This course encourages students to explore diverse forms of art, and learn how to express its effects on emotions. Students look at multiple understandings of art—both traditional and modern—to develop a greater appreciation for artists and their representations, and learn to articulate their own interpretations, evaluating both original works of art and published critiques of the same. They produce several major writing projects, developing their skills through a process of drafting, critiquing in workshops, and revising. Students also gain the skills to analyze and interpret nuances that translate to disciplines beyond art and literature.

Sample texts: New course.

Session 1: Baltimore
Session 2: Not offered

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The Digital Revolution: Writing and Social Media

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

Six corporations produce about 90 percent of media in the United States. Digital media scholars argue that the dominance of mainstream media suppresses the public’s access to a diversity of news and entertainment despite individuals having greater access to digital media technologies. Can individuals create and distribute alternative media that challenges the dominance of those six corporations? This course gives students the tools to think and write critically about the media they consume and create.

In this course, students read scholarly articles about the power and history of mass media and the growth of digital technologies, then research and write three analytical essays. Topics may include: online identity, social networking, online security, video games, media literacy, and fan culture. Using rhetorical means of persuasion, students craft critical essays that analyze modern media texts. Students also complete a group digital media project: a short film or advertisement critiquing one aspect of popular culture. Throughout the course, instructors provide detailed feedback on students’ work and lead writing workshops. Participants develop critical reading skills, learn to research and cite appropriate online sources, and gain experience writing sophisticated rhetorical essays.

Sample text: New course.

Session 1: Lancaster, Los Angeles
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: Lancaster
Session 2: Lancaster

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Advanced Fiction

Prerequisite: CTY's Utopias and Dystopias course, or CTY Online's Writing Analysis and Persuasion, or any of CTY's Critical Essay courses.

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.

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

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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