Kenyon Young Writers Program

greetings from gambier, ohio.

I’m currently at the kenyon young writers program. it’s ridiculously awesome. my mentor is Adam Clay (poet) and my fellow (another teacher) is Laura Lampton Scott (fiction writer), which I think is super cool because I write both poetry and fiction, so I feel incredibly lucky to learn from these two amazing people.

breakfast is from 7-8:30, classes go from 8:30-10, 10:30-12. Lunch is from 12-1:30. Afternoon classes run from 1:30-3:30. Free time is from 3:30-5. 5-6:45 is dinner. 6:45-8ish is general meeting (roll call) & usually a writer comes over to read his/her work. We had Marcus Jackson, W. David Hall, and Maggie Smith come over to read. My favorite would be Hall. He was so awesome & I loved how he incorporated Christianity into his short story (I got to ask him a question regarding what to write as someone who’s Christian & I really appreciated his response: write what God allows you to write. He also told me that he has trouble praying, so writing is his way of “praying”, which I thought was really interesting). 9 is usually RA (room advisor) activities. At 11, we should all be in our rooms.

on weekends, it’s different. there are no classes, and I’m lazily typing this at 10:40 AM in the Crawford computer lab. How I got in here is a heck of a long story that I won’t explain.

Also, weekend curfew depends on the behavior of the students during the weekdays. we were pretty good with sticking to the schedule/respecting our RAs/keeping the rooms in good condition, so they extended our curfew to midnight on the weekend & said we could sleep in on Saturday/Sunday.

on another note, the food here is not bad. the desert section is nice. obviously, nothing can beat the amazing food at penuel.

rooms are not bad. it’s carpeted, has two closets, two sets of drawers, two mirrors, two sets of hanging shelves, and two study desks. the mattresses are flimsy, but that’s probably all university mattresses. I don’t really have a complaint about the rooms except for our air conditioner. it literally has the power of a gray squirrel, which is not a compliment. my roommate had to buy a fan to help us sleep at night because of the heat & how little the air conditioner could to do help.

On our first night here, they made us do ice breakers (collective groan), but it actually turned out to be pretty cool. we had to get into a random group & figure out three things we all had in common. There are many international students, as well as students from all over the U.S. I think the most jarring thing was that I met a guy who–& I am not joking–lived in my own town. We never met, probably because he goes to school in the city, but we were both freaking out when we realized it.

I thought I’d be homesick, but that didn’t happen. I don’t necessarily have a “squad”, I simply continued to meet & make friends with different people as the week progressed, so I feel like I have a very diverse group of friends/people that I can easily chat with. Everyone here is super nice (they’ll always let you sit at their table even if you don’t know them–that’s how I made most of my friends), & although we’re all pretty different in terms of background, upbringing, & likes/dislikes, we all have a collective pride in being writers & disliking the cheerleaders/football players that extend the lunchroom lines by miles, haha.

all the writers live in one building & the two ends on the second/third floor (I live on the third floor) are connected by a common room area. boys live on one side & girls live on the other. the common room is loud from 8-10 PM, but if you don’t want to hang out there, you can always stay in your own room.

roommates are assigned by similar interests as indicated on your application. my roommate’s cool. she’s from LA. we both write novels. we go to breakfast together & we’ll see each other throughout the day.

there are activities every night, whether it’s baking cookies or having a coffeehouse night (which I desperately regret not going) or playing board games. yesterday, I went to my first night activity for movie night. surprisingly, there weren’t many people, but it was still cool. I wanted to watch Clueless, but Ponyo had one more vote, so we went with that. I’ve never watched Ponyo, but I thought the animation was super cool. I liked it. there’s also a talent show on Sunday & a harp concert on Saturday at 2 PM (because of the harp camp at Kenyon). RAs host their own workshops on the weekend, so that’s definitely something to check out. laundry is also on weekends.

our classes are technology free, meaning we write everything by hand. I was pretty nervous about this at first, considering I only wrote on a computer. However, after writing everything by hand for a week, I’ve warmed up to it. There’s less fear when writing/wanting every line to be perfect. Of course, there are computer lab & our mentors encouraged us to type our stuff up. Nowadays, when I’m typing on the computer, I see it from a different perspective & it’s more from a revision/editing perspective. I’m definitely open to writing by hand when I come back home/incorporating this into my writing process.

again, my mentors are awesome. they’re chill, listen to us, and are really supportive. Adam has this weird thing where if someone is saying something negative about themselves, we all have to meow at the person, haha.

however, according to my roommate, her teacher kept on talking/rambling, & they got very little writing done. she did describe it simply as “she got unlucky”, & I didn’t hear any complaints from anyone else about their mentor, so I’d say that generally, all the mentors are awesome.

my classmates are all amazing writers. I feel so lucky to be surrounded by such supportive people.

in class, we usually start with a free write for about 5-10 minutes. then we read something from the Kenyon Review or its Reading for Writers. usually, it’s assigned as homework, so we end up discussing it for the majority of the time. so far, all the readings are super interesting & I can’t wait to share them with you somewhere below. then, using an element/idea/structure of the reading, we write (ex: we did this super cool thing where the first letter of every line had to follow the order of the alphabet, so the first line starts with a, the second line starts with b, etc. My favorite exercise would be writing what we were thinking, then doing that exercise with our eyes closed, and finally, writing our thoughts with the opposite hand.)

when we approach the second week at young writers, we can take specific workshops, taught by each mentor/fellow. there are plenty of different & exciting options. I went with a short story class with Laura, but there were classes that were about combining writing with visual art, writing with music, how to use doubt to channel writing, poetry structures/forms, etc.

here are my favorite readings from the past two weeks [most are linked]

“No one wanted to use his name. To them, he was Oss, Lossie, Bonedaddy.”

“I Met Loss the Other Day” by Cara Blue Adams

“The guy tells them that they don’t know the first thing about being bitter. They have no right to be bitter. He tells thing a thing or two about life and death.”

“The boy insults him beautifully. The man is so out of it that he is not even sure he has been insulted.”

“Coming Sun. Mon. Tues.” by Don DeLillo

“All this / life born from one hungry animal, this whole, / new landscape, the course of the river changed,”

“Trophic Cascade” by Camille T. Dungy

“I got nothing left / but dreams”

To Abuelita Nelly” by Javier Zamora [scroll down]

“the dead can mother nothing… nothing / but our sight: they mother that, whether they will or not:”

Dead Doe: I” by Brigit Pegeen Kelly

“This piece of her / neck could fit into the light part / of the sky.”

Girls Overheard While Assembling a Puzzle” by Mary Szybist

“In the town where the children turned into birds, we were not as surprised as you might imagine.”

Town of Birds” by Heather Monley

“‘A body and spirit,’ he repeated. ‘The body, Lady, is like a house: it don’t go anywhere; but the spirit, lady, is like a automobile: always on the move, always…'”

The Life You Save May Be Your Own” by Flannery O’Connor

“‘What are you?’
‘What’s the other half?’

Where I’m Writing From” by Onnesha Roychoudhuri [essay]

“We only cursed what could kill us.”

“Crimson” by Reginald Dwayne Betts [reading starts at 1:30]

“This is a record for us both, this is a chronicle…. they should be lyrical / and factual, and true, they should be written down / and spoken out on rainy afternoons, instead of which / they fall away; so I have written this, so it will not”

“To Memory” by Eavan Boland

“as the waves beat harder, hard against us, until that’s / how we like it, I’ll break your heart, break mine.”

“Radiance Versus Ordinary Light” by Carl Phillips

“I feel like I must muzzle myself”

“Desired Appreciation” by Solmaz Sharif

“I can become human being the light”

“American Sonnet for My Past and Future Assassin” by Terrance Hayes

“It was the worst. Roly’s mom was all like, No, you are not coming into this house, and in my head I was like, really? It’s your grandson’s birthday or whatever and it’s gonna be like that? Really?”

“Happy Birthday Dear Dante” by Jennine Capo Crucet [reading starts at :40]

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