Sign up now: Richmond Young Writers Spring intensives

Registration is now open for RYW’s Spring 2015 workshops–and they’ve got a mighty fine course selection for your literary padawans, I must say.

Registration is now open for Richmond Young Writers Spring 2015 after school, home school, and weekend workshops (or “intensives”, as they call them). Courses are available for kids ages 9 to 17 and cater to a variety of literary interests, including but not limited to: character study and development, creative non-fiction, creature creation, storytelling, fan fiction, and graphic novels.

Weekday classes are $120 per student for five weeks unless otherwise noted. Weekend workshops are (mostly) a one-time deal and cost $40 per student. Here’s what they’ve got…

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Weekday classes

The Evil Essay Makeover

  • Mondays, January 26th – February 23rd (session 1) and Mondays, March 2nd – March 30th (session 2) • 10:00 – 11:30 AM
  • Ages 14 and up
  • Teacher: Julie Geen
  • Description: “At some point, for something important like college, you will probably have to write an essay. This might not be something you want to do. But what if we called it creative nonfiction? And had fun doing it? Whether you love writing or it makes you cringe, this class will give you the chance to get comfortable with writing prompts using your own life as creative material. Essays may be a side effect of this process.”

Freaks, Geeks & Weirdos

  • Tuesdays, February 3rd – March 3rd • 4:30 – 6:00 PM
  • Ages 12 – 14
  • Teacher: Bird Cox
  • Description: “You know how a lot of the best, most vivid characters in books are kind of… different? From the rebellious (The Hunger Games‘ Katniss Everdeen) to the downright nerdy (Thor from Michael Chabon’s Summerland), great people are the key to great stories. In this workshop, we’ll create a cast of fascinating, real-world characters who we’ll direct through adventures as simple as breakfast and as epic as time travel.”

It Could Happen to You

  • Tuesdays, March 17th – April 21st (no class April 7th) • 4:30 – 6:00 PM
  • Ages 15 – 17
  • Teacher: Bird Cox
  • Description: “This workshop’s focus is the weird stuff that happens constantly in real life, and how to go about documenting, transforming and crafting it into descriptive fictional work. We’ll be using our own memories and experiences to write across the spectrum of realistic fiction, finding our strengths somewhere between semi-fiction and magical realism.”

Keys to the Animal Kingdom

  • Tuesdays, May 5th – June 2nd • 4:30 – 6:00 PM
  • Ages 9-11
  • Teacher: Bird Cox
  • Description: “Animals are pretty awesome, as proven by the enormous number of pictures of them that pop up on the internet every day (how many internet-famous cats can you name?)… and in this workshop, we’ll be celebrating them all! We’ll write stories, poems and essays about our favorite animals, be they our pets, coveted zoo sightings, or exotic wonders. And we’ll make up a few animals out of our own imaginations, too!”

From the Inside Out

  • Wednesdays, February 4th – March 4th • 4:30 – 6:00 PM
  • Ages 15 – 17
  • Teacher: Valley Haggard
  • Description: “Big novels, poems and essays are often inspired by small flashes of thought, insight or feeling. Through the use of creative nonfiction and free-writing techniques, we will examine the make-up and matter of our own observations, dreams, memories and experiences to create a portfolio of beginnings. With quick or lingering peeks within, we will watch any and all genres emerge onto the page.”

Write Your Own Adventure

  • Wednesdays, March 18th – April 22nd (no class April 8th) • 4:30 – 6:00 PM
  • Ages 9 – 11
  • Teacher: Valley Haggard
  • Description: “We’ll treat this class like a choose your own adventure novel, but the heroine or hero will be you! Do you save the kingdom from zombie invasion or play minecraft with the monster locked in the tower? Design your own world, invent your own species, explore alternate universes and alternate endings while making life or death decisions at every turn. And then start over, and do it all again!”

Free-Write Freak Out

  • Wednesdays, May 6th – June 3rd • 4:30 – 6:00 PM
  • Ages 12 – 14
  • Teacher: Valley Haggard
  • Description: “Free-writing can unlock minds and open doors, begin poems and finish stories. Stumped by your own plot or character motivation? Free-write! Don’t know how to start an essay, letter, term paper, novel or rant? Free-write! Try your hand at taming the big thoughts, expressing the unexpressable, harnessing the wild emotions and learning how to write the things you don’t know how to say. Surprise yourself with the serious, funny, practical, wild, deep and useful aspects of free-writing that can be applied to both work and play.”

Creature Creation

  • Thursdays, February 5th – March 5th • 4:30 – 6:00 PM
  • Ages 9 – 11
  • Teacher: Suzanne Reamy
  • Description: “Are your notebooks filled with doodles of dragons and unicorns? Do you dream up hybrid bird-turtle creatures (Burtles) in your sleep? Do mutant parrots send you messages for your next story? Join us as we unravel the mysteries of these magical beings and more. We’ll draw, write and send our creatures on an incredible mission to save the world!”

Dystopia Disturbia

  • Thursdays, March 19th — April 23rd (no class April 9th) • 4:30 — 6:00 PM
  • Ages 12-14
  • Teacher: Suzanne Reamy
  • Description: “Do you see things getting a bit off track? What kind of warning would you send the people of Earth, if you were given the opportunity? We’ll look at the underlying messages in the popular dystopian novels and films like the Hunger Games trilogy, Divergent, The Giver, and Matched. Who is responsible for maintaining a healthy planet? How much should a society be structured or governed? Who should have power? We’ll explore all these concepts and more as we construct our own future worlds. What message will yours hold for the people of this generation?”

Wire Tap

  • Thursdays, May 7th – June 4th • 4:30 – 6:00 PM
  • Ages 15 – 17
  • Teacher: Suzanne Reamy
  • Description: “We’ll eavesdrop on coffee shop patrons, skaters, moms, hipsters, and various Carytown meanderers. We’ll construct backstories, inner dramas, and write the things they wish they could say. We’ll pick apart dialect, motivation, and inner fears. Join us as we go deep undercover and build authentic characters inspired by all we meet.”

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Weekend workshops

Valentine’s Day: The Horror

  • Saturday, February 14th • 1:00 – 4:00 PM
  • Ages 14 and up
  • Teacher: Julie Geen
  • Description: “Come, join other creatures of the night and write your black little heart out. We will celebrate all things frightening and dreadful with writing prompts designed to free your dark side. We will warmly applaud all of the sick things we create. And we will eat candy and make each other valentines.”

Truths and Tales: The Art of Storytelling

  • Saturday, February 28th • 1:00 – 4:00 PM
  • Ages 9 – 11
  • Teacher: Kayla Runion
  • Description: “Before keyboards and screens, before pens and pages, storytellers used their voice and body to inform and entertain. In ‘Truths and Tales,’ we will practice various forms of art, movement and vocalization to draw out our inner storyteller. Yakima time balls and cave drawings will give voice to the soft-spoken storyteller, while campfire-style orations and tall-tale contests provide a stage for the more verbal storyteller. Both shy and exuberant writers are encouraged to attend this workshop. Luckily, we have the luxury of recording our creations! Storytellers will have a chance, if they so please, to write down their truths and tales, and we plan to take videos of all orations for storytellers to email to family and friends.”

Putting On the Mask: Writing Poetry Personas

  • Saturday, March 7th • 1:00 – 4:00 PM
  • Ages 11 – 15
  • Teacher: Emilia Phillips
  • Description: “Poets have a long tradition of writing with masks on, of talking in others’ voices. From superheroes to villains, animals to aliens, presidents to pro wrestlers, these voices–what we call ‘personas’–allow poets to use their imagination and ‘play’ on the page. This often allows poets to do and say things they wouldn’t be able to in their own lives or voices, like blasting off into outer space or accepting an Academy Award. Additionally, it also helps poets understand how others feel, to appreciate differences and to locate commonalities between people. In this workshop, students will read several persona poems and explore how they work before jumping into some fun exercises, including one that allows students to have a poetic conversation with one another’s characters.”

Fandom Frenzy Returns!

  • Saturdays, March 14th – March 28th • 2:30 – 4:30 PM
  • Ages 12 – 14
  • Teacher: Suzanne Reamy
  • Description: “Do you muse about how you would bring back Headmaster Dumbledore? Does Sherlock’s brilliance have you seeing clues everywhere? Do you know the perfect way to round out the cast of Supernatural? If you’ve ever felt moved to express your love of an artist, book, or film, this is the class for you. We’ll dabble in the world of magic,
    mystery and song to create our own poems, prose, and lyrics–all in homage to our favorite fictional characters, shows and movies. Join us as we explore how all this fandom frenzy can take our writing to new heights!”

Pre-April Fool’s Day Apocalypse

  • Saturday, March 28th • 1:00 – 4:00 PM
  • Ages 14 and up
  • Teacher: Julie Geen
  • Description: “We will prepare for April Fool’s Day with an afternoon of horror. Whether you enjoy a good apocalypse or have a soft spot for demon spawn, these writing prompts will encourage you to explore all things dark. We will create our own urban legends and come up with new ideas for stories. We will also eat candy and discuss April Fool’s pranks of yore.”

Making Cartoons, Comics, and Graphic Novels

  • Saturdays, April 19th – May 9th • 10:00 AM – 12:00 PM
  • Ages 12 – 16
  • Teacher: Gary Cohn
  • Description: “Almost everyone loves cartoons and comics, and for many writers and artists, ‘sequential narratives’ hold a powerful appeal. In a sense, comics and graphic novels are movies that don’t move, although there are storytelling possibilities that are unique to the comics medium. The combination of words and pictures is a compelling way to tell stories, and in recent years comics has moved far beyond simple stories of costumed superheroes or lovelorn teens, to encompass the full range of storytelling possibilities. For the novice comics creator, the questions are, ‘Where do I begin? How do I find the words, how do I draw the pictures, and how do I put them together?’ Veteran comics writing professional Gary Cohn can help you find your way into this absorbing storytelling medium. With a proven track record of several decades in the industry, as well as leading writing and comics-making workshops at the high school and college levels, Cohn can guide you to discover ways to be creative that work for you.”
  • Cost: Due to the materials included, this course costs $140

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All classes meet in the upstairs room at Chop Suey Books (2915 W. Cary Street). Students need to report to class with a journal and a water bottle.

To register your young writer, visit And be quick about about it–these courses fill up lickety-split.

Photo by: GoodNCrazy

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Valerie Catrow

Valerie Catrow is editor of RVAFamily, mother to a mop-topped first grader, and always really excited to go to bed.

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