Sixty-six writers divided into six workshops at the Iowa Young Writers’ Studio, whose first session ended last week. It’s a similar model to the one employed by the famous graduate-level program, and it worked incredibly well for me. I was in a class with a broad focus (“creative writing”) and my eleven classmates made up an intimate group with whom I felt comfortable sharing and discussing very private work. At the helm was Amy Butcher, who, if my sources are to be trusted, was the first nonfiction writer to teach at the studio. She was insightful about our writing and, even more to her credit, patient with our antics.
But that’s just the beginning. Were the camp just a workshop, it would have been a valuable two weeks. Some of the most important and instructive time, however, was spent outside the workshop, and these moments elevated the studio from worthwhile to possibly-life-changing.
For one, we had the opportunity to meet writers our age – strangers from far-off regions of the country tied together by a common interest and a determination to pursue that interest. Being together practically every waking moment helped these friendships bloom remarkably fast. Between the counselors and teachers and many live readings, we were also lucky enough to talk to older writers – people who are making a living out of writing and who let us imagine how we could eventually pursue the craft professionally or at least make it a part of our lives.
I haven’t covered the lavish suites, the endless supply of chocolate milk, the exciting meat offerings, the pie shakes, the cemetery visit, the “dunk tanks,” the karaoke, the talent shows – suffice it to say that we were edified and entertained in new ways at all hours. I imagine I’m not alone in feeling that at the studio, I grew not just academically but as a person. So, it was a writing workshop, yes. But a lot more than a workshop.
Jacob Potash is a student at City High School in Iowa City, Iowa. He attended Session 1 of the Iowa Young Writers’ Studio.