Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Random Ramble: Kenyon Review Young Writers Workshop (Rachel)


I recently had the opportunity to attend the Kenyon Review Young Writers Workshop at Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio. My experience was so amazing and life-changing that I knew I had to tell you guys all about it. This post is probably going to be long, and it's probably going to be super ramble-y, but hey, that's nothing new.

First of all, I'll tell you a little bit about Kenyon College. It's a fantastic school that's known for it's writing program, so in my college search throughout all of junior year, I found myself doing extensive research on this school. Fun fact: John Green and Ransom Riggs both attended Kenyon (at the same time!), and John's video is actually what made me discover Kenyon and decide to do some research on it. I've determined that Kenyon College is one of my top choices for college, so I definitely plan on applying there. If you're interested in learning more about this school, I recommend going to their website or doing a Google search. Even if you're not looking for colleges to attend, it's a fascinating school full of history and beautiful architecture and scenery, so it's definitely fun to research.

Here is the video John Green made that first introduced me to Kenyon. It gives you an idea of what the school is like and how beautiful the campus is.

Here I am standing next to "the little post thing that everyone touches"
I applied to the Kenyon Review Young Writers Workshop back in February 2014, and got my acceptance letter about a month later. I was also lucky enough to be given a full scholarship. Getting accepted into this program was one of the highlights of my life. It has a somewhat low acceptance rate, so it feels like a major accomplishment to be chosen to attend this program. Not to brag or anything, but being accepted has increased my confidence a lot. :)

The workshop lasted for two weeks, and I honestly believe that my time at Kenyon was the best two consecutive weeks of my life. I was surrounded by a hundred other teenage writers from all over the country. A few kids were even from outside the United States. For the first time in my life, I was able to find people with the same passions and interests and hobbies as me everywhere I looked. Literary references were understood and appreciated, nerdiness was the norm, and everyone was so intelligent and open-minded. In school, I always feel like a bit of an outcast because my world is so far removed from the "normal" world most teenagers are living in, but at this workshop, people were like me. They got it. We came from all over the country, with such difference experiences, but we were united in our love of writing.

During the actual workshop sessions--about five hours of hardcore writing per day--I had the opportunity to write alongside some talented, interesting people. We responded to obscure prompts and then shared our work with each other and offered feedback. We read short stories and poems and had intelligent, stimulating, sometimes heated discussions about them. I learned about new (to me) forms of writing like prose poetry and hybrid essays and segmented essays and practiced them. I found that I was willing to try new things and experiment and not worry if it was good or not. It didn't matter if what I was producing was good; all that mattered was that I was writing, and I was falling in love with writing all over again.

My classroom had so much character with its beautiful wooden walls and clock that was stuck displaying 4:35 (you can see the whole classroom in John Green's video)
Outside Ascension Hall, the building in which my classes were held
Sometimes it's easy for me to forget about how much I love writing. I burn myself out every year during NaNoWriMo, which is great practice for writing on a regular basis but exhausting, and then I write blog posts until it feels like my fingers are going to fall off, and then I write countless boring essays for school. It all makes me forget that writing can be fun and creative and it can make me happier than anything else in the world. During this workshop, I wrote because I love creating and expressing myself and just...writing. I write because I love writing, and I don't know exactly why I love writing, I just do. I have definitely rekindled my love of writing, and I hope I won't let myself forget how much I love it again.

The anthology filled with pieces by all the young writers...I guess I'm a published writer now!
In addition to the actual writing, I had the opportunity to experience college life for the first time. I lived in a dorm for two weeks with a roommate and a communal bathroom and a meal plan. I have been looking forward to college since I got to high school and realized how shitty it was (oops, I'll try to tone down the teen angst :D), but it was slightly terrifying to think of all the little details of college life, like sharing a space with a roommate and having to eat in the dining hall and oh god the communal bathrooms! This workshop gave me an excuse to try out college life for a bit, and I am happy to report that it is totally not scary at all! In fact, I think I love it. The whole college environment was so appealing to me, and I think that when I actually go to college for real, I'll thrive. 

During this program, my roommate was the closest friend I made, and the communal bathrooms were totally not a big deal. The dining hall did get a little dangerous with some weird food (macaroni and cheese...on pizza?) and waaay too many dessert options (the Freshman Fifteen makes so much sense now!), but ultimately, it was fine. Plus, I mean, Kenyon's dining hall looks just like the Great Hall, so I just pretended I was at Hogwarts at every meal.

Now that I've had a taste of what college is like, I don't know how I'm going to survive another year of high school. For two weeks I sat in class with twelve other students who were willing to engage in scintillating discussions about Flannery O'Connor stories and an instructor who treated us like peers rather than students and wrote alongside us. Everyone felt so lucky to be in that classroom, and we all valued the opportunity to learn from each other. After experiencing that, the idea of returning to the toxic environment of high school is beyond depressing. But I only have a year left before I can get the hell out of there and move on to greater things and greener pastures, so I will try to remain optimistic.

I will miss reading on park benches on the beautiful campus
tl;dr... I highly recommend the Kenyon Review Young Writers Workshop to any teenage writers out there. It was seriously the best experience of my life. It was so wonderful that being home and back to my normal life makes me sad. I want to go back to this workshop, and I want to go back to Kenyon, and I want to go back to the amazing friends I made, and I want to go back to the inspiring environment, and I want to go back to college. 

And now...some silly photos of my amazing new friends! I hope to stay friends with these smart, hilarious, talented girls for a long time. :)

There is so much more I could say about this experience, but I'll leave it at that for now. If you have any questions about the workshop or my experience or my writing or anything at all, please feel free to ask down in the comments!


  1. Wow! Sounds like you had an amazing time, Rachel!

  2. I was just accepted into Kenyon's Young Writer's Review program! I thought I was excited before I read this... now I don't think I can wait any longer!