When COVID-19 first shook the world in 2020, then eighth grader Colin Mellen decided to finally take his pen to paper to write down several ideas for creative stories he had thought of in years past. Many of these revolved around happenings in his own life, which Mellen transformed into tales.
Fast forward to the present day, and you can still see Mellen, a rising senior at St. John’s Prep in Danvers, Ma., gathering inspiration from his experiences to pen stories. Outside of Callahan, Endicott’s dining hall, the student could be seen scribbling down a short piece in a notebook with his ideas.
The connection between self and story has increased Mellen’s love for storytelling, leading him to enroll in Endicott’s annual Young Writers Workshop this year. As Mellen is looking toward majoring in English at the college level, the program has helped him to learn more about the field and his own mind.
“They’ve [the faculty and writers] really taught me how to best represent my experiences and others' experiences in my writing,” said Mellen. “How to really make something new.”
Doubling its participation since last year, Endicott College welcomed high school students from across Massachusetts to participate in its fifth annual Young Writers Workshop. The program, which provides high school students an opportunity to learn more about creative writing, was held from June 28 to 30.
The group of 27 students worked with various Endicott creative writing faculty and professional writers to create and refine new writing in several genres, including poetry, fiction playwriting/screenwriting, and young-adult writing.
Due to increased interest from students, a third day was added to the workshop this year, as well as two more faculty members (Sara Johnson Allen, whose forthcoming novel debuts this summer from Black Lawrence Press, and Alena Dillon).
Laurie Stolarz, the author of 18 young adult novels, was also a mentor in addition to Endicott faculty during the program, providing expertise in young adult writing. With over a million books sold, her titles have been translated into 30 languages, developed into podcast series, and optioned for TV.
Sam Alexander, Faculty Department Lead and Associate Professor in the School of Social Sciences, Communication, & Humanities said that this year’s surge in attendance shows that interest in creative writing is alive and well among high school-age students.
“As a high school student, you're thinking a lot about expressing yourself,” said Alexander. “I think that high school students have a lot of imagination that hasn't sort of been corralled yet into a set direction.”
Alexander described that there is a real need for them to understand that they can pursue creative writing at the college level.
“There are a lot of programs that try to open up pathways for students to study STEM, for example, or business at the college level,” said Alexander. “I think sometimes students aren't aware that they can also pursue the arts in general, but especially creative writing at the college level. We just want them to know that that's a possibility.”
Elizabeth Winthrop, Assistant Professor of English in the School of Social Sciences, Communication, & Humanities, said the workshop is a direct line for many to major in creative writing at Endicott. By attending classes taught by a college professor, students can experience a glimpse of what they could expect at the College.
“It’s definitely giving me a little preview of what college is like,” said Lily Scotti, a rising sophomore at Beverly High School. “Even just driving in and looking for the buildings and stuff. It's fun.”
Both professors hope that students were able to make connections during the program, including with the faculty members and the professional writers, and other attendees who came from different high schools with different experiences, but with a shared love of creative writing.
“Listening to the authors, professors, and other students, and what their writing sounds like, and just hearing different things helps me learn more about writing because I can just hear different perspectives,” said Scotti.
Winthrop said that her goal for the students is to gain confidence as writers and walk away with a few solid pieces of writing that they feel good about, as well as little nuggets of wisdom from throughout the program.
The workshop hopes to grow even more next year, said Alexander, with the College possibly opening up the program nationally and bringing in an overnight component.