Q&A - How important are writing programs to an author/editor's abilities?
By Brooke Nind and Melanie Van Peenen
Writing programs are a wonderful experience and an opportunity for young writers to grow together, but they’re definitely not a prerequisite for being considered a good writer or crafting quality pieces. Any opportunity to learn from other writers will improve one’s writing or editing skills, but that doesn’t need to be through an exclusive or pricey writing program.
I attended a writing program virtually this past summer, and it was an amazing experience for me. We read and discussed lots of great writing that introduced me to new writers and new styles, and we wrote at least one poem each day with the help of truly thought-provoking prompts. My high school is very STEM focused and has little to no resources, classes, or activities within the realm of creative writing. Meeting with other young writers in a safe space to share and revise work was something I’d never experienced before, so I gained a lot from the program. It was also amazing to learn from talented and accomplished adult writers-- that’s something I wouldn’t have gotten the opportunity to do otherwise.
As with many other opportunities, these programs are what you make of them. Writers of all levels can benefit from these programs, but writers of all levels can also gain the skills developed during these programs on their own time if they continue to push themselves in their writing and editing processes.
Melanie Van Peenen
While writing programs can be helpful in developing a writer’s abilities, they are certainly not necessary. Personally, I’ve had nothing but good experiences with the writing programs I have attended. I think the collaborative aspect of these programs or workshops is the most beneficial. Receiving feedback from mentors and peers, working with others on a piece, or simply spending time writing together are all great ways to expand your perspective as a writer. Writing can be an isolating experience (I’m looking at you, Dickinson), but certain programs provide an excellent opportunity to learn about different styles and points of view.
It’s also important to consider that not all writing programs are created equal. I think I’ve become a bit skeptical about these programs because many of them are advertised at such an extreme price. Groups like Polyphony Lit offer meaningful learning experiences for young writers, but others seem to care more about profit than the quality of the program. If you can, reach out to people who have attended the program before and ask if they would recommend it. When doing your research on the program, it might be worth considering who leads it, how transparent they are about the program content or structure, and if any reviews exist online. Regardless, don’t let anyone convince you that you need to attend a program and spend copious amounts of money in order to succeed as a writer or editor.
These programs can be an excellent resource to supplement your skills through collaboration and constructive feedback, but there are also infinite opportunities to grow as a writer by developing your craft individually.
Brooke Nind is a Second Reader at Polyphony Lit and and a blogger at Voices.
Melanie Van Peenen is a First Reader at Polyphony Lit and and a blogger at Voices.