Hi All! This is the Jen, the Program Director of the fellowship. I wanted to offer an update on what we've been up to this fall. This year, the fellowship will be offering opportunities for BHS students to work on their writing during the school year. We are launching 2 new writing initiatives. First, we will be hosting a BHS Moth Story hour on the topic of "Navigating Uncertainty." This event will celebrate the art of writing a great story and how to deliver that story in a powerful way. Details are on our main page! We are also working on a winter opinion editorial writing workshop that will give 10 students a focused time to write about something that matters to them and publishing their work in the Sagamore and other publications. This workshop will run during Feb. break. More details on that in the near future. If you have any questions about the fellowship or these other opportunities feel free to reach to me via email at email@example.com.
This blog post was written by Jacob Zucker '21 on August 16, 2020
It’s crazy to think that we’re nearly done with a summer of the fellowship. So much has happened since we got started all the way back in May, and I think that I can speak for all eight of us when I say that I’m just so thankful for the opportunity that we’ve all been given through the Whipple Fellowship.
At our last weekly meeting, all the way back on July 29, we met to discuss our work and any and all issues that we’d been facing in the writing process. We also had our third and final author visit with Danielle Legros Georges, the former poet laureate of the city of Boston. Legros Georges wrote the poetry collection The Dear Remote Nearness of You, which we all read prior to the Zoom. The powerful book draws from her experiences as an immigrant from Haiti and much more. She was so down-to-earth and had great advice for all of us.
By the end of that week we had the goal of turning in our updrafts, which Emelia mentioned in the previous blog post. And Ben told us to take some time off during the next week, the first week of August, in order to get some distance from our work and take some time to decompress. But right after that we dove back into our pieces, and began making final edits to content in the piece. And in the coming days we’ll pair up with peers and work on grammar and word choice before turning in our final drafts.
Up Drafts and More Author Visits
This blog post was written by Emelia Gauch '21 on July 23, 2020
This week, we began our "up drafts". Basically, the idea is to give our "downdrafts" a sense, as Mr. Berman wrote, of "whole." Personally, I've found this really exciting and interesting as it's given me a chance to look back at what I've been working on and see the concepts I introduced than forgot about, create a more distinct narrative, and further develop the voice of my character. We also filled out outlines, for those of us writing a story, there was a fiction plotting activity and, for those doing poetry, a poetry anthology activity.
At our weekly meeting, we had our second author visit from Whitney Scharer, author of The Age of Light. It was so lovely to be able to talk with her and hear about her experience writing, researching, and publishing The Age of Light. She had many great tips for us and we got to learn more about her book, which many of us have read. For me, I found this experience especially helpful because, like Scharer did, I am writing historical fiction.
We've continued to meet one-on-one for boosts, which I've found to be endlessly motivating. There is nothing like having someone clap for you and you getting to do the same for them. I love hearing other fellows work and it's really nice to be able to talk to people who are going through the same process that you are, that are feeling similar feelings, and encountering similar difficulties.
This blog post was written by Elena Su '21 on July 17, 2020
During this past handful of weeks, we’ve been developing our “downdrafts”––initial, rough sketches of what our final projects will be. Our target was to have a completed first draft by Friday, July 18. Throughout this process, Ben has always emphasized that we should be focusing on quantity rather than quality; later, there will be ample time for editing and revising. We’re tasked with turning off our “perfectionist switches” so that we can produce a large volume of writing in a relatively short span of time. It’s been liberating. I can discard my inhibitions and speak my mind.
We’ve also been having weekly “boosts,” which are one-on-one meetings with another Fellow. These meetings allow us to share our progress and to receive some (much-needed!) praise and validation from our own small writing community. For me, writing has always been equal parts difficult and lovely and solitary. It’s been great to receive support from people who understand the same, intimate struggles as deeply as I do.
Other exciting news: we had our first guest visit this past Wednesday! Grace Talusan is the author of the brilliant and impactful memoir The Body Papers, which won the Restless Books Prize for New Immigrant Writing. Grace imparted some advice for budding writers and shared some details about her experiences with writing, teaching, and publishing. We had all previously read The Body Papers for our Fellowship, and many of us asked her about her memoir writing process during a Q&A session on Wednesday. Grace’s visit was in equal parts poignant and enlightening, and we’re so grateful that she was able to leave some of her wisdom with us.
Intensive Writing Workshops
This blog post was written by Madison Allen '23 on July 2,2020
I can hardly believe that we are in our 7th week of working, learning, and growing as writers. During the midst of a global pandemic and a racial justice movement, these past seven weeks have been a reprieve that has given me the chance to direct my energy and my conscious stream of thoughts inwards to my writing. This week we have had 2 intensive workshops that took place on Wednesday, July 1st and Thursday, July 2nd from 9:00-1:00. During our workshops, we underwent a myriad of the following crash courses included, but not limited to character development, narratives, and how to structure your writing. The crash course that I enjoyed the most was about exploring writing utilizing different points of view which allowed me to remain adamant about the message I wanted to convey within my writing but be adaptable in how I conveyed that message.
In the coming weeks, we look forward to deepening our writing skills and hearing from the authors that we all collectively voted on to read their books earlier during the program. On July 15th, we expect to hear from Grace Talusan about her book The Body Papers: A Memoir, on July 22nd we expect to hear from Whitney Scharer about her book The Age of Light, and on July 29th we expect to hear from Danielle Legros Georges about her book The Dear Remote Nearness of You. During the time that we convene with the authors, we will have the opportunity to ask questions about their books and continue to learn how to craft a piece of writing that will ultimately be submitted for publication and be presented in front of a public forum in the fall. I look forward to continuing the work on my project and working with the cohort of other aspiring writers and the esteemed faculty.
The Tinkering Phase
Blog post written by Ryan Xia on June 18, 2020
Hello everyone! This is Ryan with your weekly Whipple Fellowship news report. Our main story today: I have no idea how to begin a blog post—so let’s get going! It’s June, which means we’re currently in the tinkering phase and I’m still developing my ideas. I want to write a comedic short story examining social hierarchy and inequality in our society. During our one-on-one meetings, Ben recommended that I read some short stories from other authors for inspiration. Ms. Mains also suggested the book Dig by A.S. King. Following their suggestions, I’ve basically been reading a lot the past few weeks. As I go, I’m trying to note down what I like and don’t like about the author’s writing. Ben also recommended that I should broaden my options for story concepts. I’ve begun another small list of “what if scenarios.” It’s a strange paradox, but the more I tinker, the more I feel intimidated to actually start writing. There are just so many things to consider. We’ll see how everything pans out by July.
In other news, summer is here, which comes with its pros and cons. Pros: I have more time to think about writing and to relax a little. Cons: I also have more time to stress out about writing and to feel guilty relaxing too much. Also, knowing that the summer heat is coming, my family has decided to migrate South. I’m currently in Williamsburg, Virginia soaking in the rays and the humidity. It’s a lot calmer here with Covid-19, though, which has definitely assisted in maintaining my sanity. Ben keeps talking about how writing is often an isolated activity. It’s pretty isolated here, so maybe that will help. Anyway, I hope everyone is still doing well up in Brookline and am looking forward to meeting as a full group again in July!
Narrowing Down Topics
This blog post was written by Era Laho on June 3, 2020
This week’s goal was to further develop our initial brainstorms and settle on one project idea that we felt both connected to and excited to pursue. Everyone was asked to go into our meeting on May 27th with three clear project ideas, narrowed down from the dozen or more we had after last week’s meeting. We split up into pairs and, with other Whipple fellows, discussed our three proposals in depth. We were encouraged to ask our partner as many questions as we could about all of their potential projects, and quickly noticed which ideas we were more excited about as we spoke. Though I was torn between two, my partner helped me combine them into one comprehensive proposal that brought together the best aspects of both.
We left the meeting feeling inspired and with a plan. The rest of the week was spent researching and tinkering with scenes. Since I’ve decided to write a series of vignettes about my experiences growing up as an immigrant and a girl, I’ve been collecting old albums and family stories, as well as going through my own journals from a few years ago to now. Though this meant more time in our dusty attic than I'd have liked, it served me well, as I've been rediscovering new memories every day. We will be continuing this independent work for the next month, solidifying and cleaning up our process, so that we can be all ready to start serious drafting in July.
Blog entry was written by Annabel Cox on May 27th, 2020
To prepare for this week's meeting, Ben asked us to fill out a brainstorming sheet to help get us thinking about possible project ideas. The brainstorm included some fun and silly questions like “what is your greatest fear?” But, actually, thinking about current events, genres, and people that interest me and deserve more thorough exploration was a very helpful way to get a handle on what I might want to devote my summer to. The activity we did during our Wednesday zoom meeting also gave me inspiration. We were put in two breakout rooms and we read each other our brainstorm sheets. Then, we had rapid fire sessions of throwing out ideas beginning with “what if you...”. The ideas could be as crazy or realistic as we wanted and were supposed to be spontaneous, but I found myself and my fellow students had a hard time stopping ourselves from over-thinking.
Our assignment for next week is to come up with three possible topics which we will share with the rest of the group. Right now I’m thinking about looking at the difference between one’s perception of themselves versus how others see them, future technologies that will allow us to read each other's minds (á la Elon Musk’s Neuralink), or interviewing my grandma who lived in Oklahoma during the Dust Bowl and connecting that to our current environmental crisis. We also got the exciting news that all three of the authors we voted on agreed to come talk to us! We will each receive a copy of their latest books to read before we get the chance to meet them, ask questions, and get advice on our own writing.
This blog is maintained by Whipple Fellows as they embark on their summer fellowship. They use this blog to describe their incredible work and journey as writers.