Southern Illinois University Carbondale

What should I bring with me to the Young Writers Workshop?

Here’s a checklist to help you pack for the session:


___pens, pencils

___spiral notebook or legal pads (we’ll give you legal pads, but you may want a spare)

___toiletries (especially your toothpaste and toothbrush, soap, shampoo)

___pillow and blanket

___towels and washcloth

___flip-flops for the shower

___sweatshirt or sweater

___something to sleep in (t-shirts/shorts or pj’s)

___comfortable walking shoes


___alarm clock

___phone cards for making long-distance calls

___pocket dictionary and thesaurus

___headphones for music listening

___small flashlight

___small umbrella

What are the workshops like?

The workshops will help you generate new stories and poems, and will also give you insight into what makes a poem or story work. There will be lots of writing exercises and opportunities to share what you write during the workshop at open mike readings. The workshops focus on creative writing, not academic analysis of literature. It definitely helps to know a lot about literary terms however, and two books you might look at prior to the workshop are The Poetry Dictionary by John Drury (Writers Digest Books) and Creating the Story by Rebecca Rule and Susan Wheeler (Heinemann Books). You don’t have to read these books prior to coming to the Young Writers Workshop, but a familiarity with them will help you with your writing.

Who are the teachers?

All the teachers are working writers—graduate students and faculty in creative writing at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. All of the teachers are interested in helping you learn more about yourself as a creative writer. You’ll have the opportunity to talk about writing with people who are immersed in creating poems and stories all the time.

Why are the morning and afternoon sessions divided by genre?

We want to give you an opportunity to learn a lot about the genre you write in the most or are most interested in. But we encourage you to write both poetry and fiction while at the Young Writers Workshop (see next question).

What are mini-classes?

Mini-classes are special one-hour sessions to introduce you to particular creative writing topics. They are open to everyone, regardless of what genre you primarily write in. Topics covered in previous years include prose poems, surrealism, imagery, and character development. The mini-classes give you an opportunity to write in a genre that you might not have written much in—we encourage you to sample a poetry mini-class if you are in the fiction workshop or to take a fiction mini-class if you are in poetry.

What are the dorms like?

They are very basic and well air-conditioned in the summer, so you want to make sure you bring the items listed on the “Required” list above. The “Recommended” items are nice, but not as necessary. Each dorm room has two beds, two dressers, two desks, and a sink; a bathroom is shared with an adjoining dorm room.

Why are there so many readings on the schedule?

The Young Writers Workshop was created so that teen writers could hear the work of writers at all levels—thus you’ll hear from the well-published writers on the SIUC faculty, and you’ll also hear from graduate students who are beginning to publish their works. You’ll also have opportunities to read your work, and we strongly encourage you to do so, though no one is ever required to read aloud at one of the open mikes. The workshop does provide you with an audience of writerly peers making it an ideal place to share your creative writing with like-minded people.

Why was the Young Writers Workshop founded?

The Young Writers Workshop was founded in 1998 by Allison Joseph, a professor at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. After seeing other creative writing workshops for teen writers around the country, Allison wanted to bring a similar program to her own campus. Many workshops for teen writers are very expensive ($800-$2000), so Allison wanted to create a program that would be just as effective in encouraging and helping teen writers, but for a much less expensive cost.

I live in the Chicagoland area. Can I come to Young Writers on the train?

Yes, if you wish to come to the workshop by train, please purchase a ticket for travel on Amtrak’s Saluki train (Train 391, departing Chicago at 9:15 am, arriving Carbondale at 2:45 pm). This ticket should be for June 27 (no need to come down to Carbondale the night before because of the new Saluki train). The ride is a long one from Chicago to Carbondale (six hours!), so bring snacks for the ride and a book or some music to listen to during the trip. Young Writers Workshop staff will be there to greet you at the train station when you arrive Wednesday afternoon and will get you back to the train station on Saturday for your departure.

I live far from Southern Illinois—can I come via air? Though many of the students who come to Young Writers are from Illinois and the states nearby (Missouri and Indiana, for example), we welcome students from anywhere in the country. The closest major airport to Carbondale is in St. Louis, which is two hours from campus. If you fly into St. Louis, you’ll want to arrange for BART Transportation to pick you up and bring you to campus. Their number is 1-800-284-2278. Call them for rates and departure times. You can also fly into Williamson Country Regional Airport (10 miles from Carbondale in Marion, Illinois). If you fly into Williamson County Regional Airport, please arrange your travel so that you arrive in St. Louis at or before noon, giving BART Transportation plenty of time to get you to campus.