Grace Ripperger

For two weeks in July 2023, I stayed at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs for the New York State Summer Writers Institute. When I was a first-year student, I attended a panel hosted by faculty and graduate students associated with the creative writing program. They spoke about their experiences as writers and gave us advice. One of the MFA students mentioned that she had attended the Institute as an undergraduate and encouraged us to look into it, so I did! Over those two weeks, I participated in two week-long workshops, one led by Amy Hempel and the other led by Adam Braver. In the workshop, we discussed the manuscripts submitted by the students in my class and outside readings assigned by my instructors. During the evenings, we attended fiction, non-fiction, and poetry readings given by our instructors and visiting writers. The Institute allowed me to meet and connect with writers of different disciplines, backgrounds, ages, and interests.

I was surprised by the lack of separation between students and instructors. Or, in other words, I was surprised by the instructors’ willingness to engage with students as “equals.” To me, there didn’t seem to be a common power imbalance between instructor and student; instead, our instructors seemed to view us through our shared identity as “writers.” During my time at the Institute, I encountered several writers who offered advice on crafting longer works (and on writing, in general). I will use this information when working on my thesis (my first novel or novella), which will be a longer work of fiction. The program also allowed me to meet Susan Hynds, a retired professor of English education who previously taught at SU for two decades and still lives in the Syracuse area. Susan has offered to serve as a type of informal advisor for my project; essentially, she will read early drafts of my work and offer feedback.

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