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Writing for Young Adults

ENGL 121.301
instructor(s):
R 1:30-4:30
fulfills requirements:
Elective of the Standard Major

Young adult literature is powerful, inventive, and worthy of respect—and those writing it have enormous potential in their hands. This writing workshop will explore the craft of YA literature (literature for readers age 12 through adulthood) through creative assignments, generative exercises, assigned readings of texts by both giants in the field and emerging voices, and discussions of student work in a constructive environment.

Students will focus on craft concerns crucial to writing about and for teens, such as: voice, point of view, immediacy, pacing, and opening hooks. Students will create writing of their own that delves deeply into character and pushes the boundaries of form and content, drawing on the many possibilities available in YA literary fiction: blurred genres, unreliable narrators, surrealism, retellings, and issues of identity and self-discovery. We will look beyond straightforward prose into forms such as epistolary and verse novels and other experimental mashups. We will consider how tolerant YA literature can be of ambiguity, and address the handling of hard issues and so-called taboo subject matter. Authors we will study as inspirations and models will include Elizabeth Acevedo, M. T. Anderson, Libba Bray, Lucy Christopher, Dhonielle Clayton, Alice Sola Kim, A. S. King, Malinda Lo, Samantha Mabry, Anna-Marie McLemore, Kekla Magoon, Emily X.R. Pan, Randy Ribay, Neil Schusterman, Adam Silvera, and Ibi Zoboi, among others.

Come ready to challenge any preconceptions you may have about YA literature—beyond the commercial juggernauts and movie franchises—and examine what some believe is its greatest potential: to offer young readers a vehicle for recognizing themselves, and for reflecting and even transforming the world around them. By the end of the semester, students will complete a portfolio of creative work that showcases their own unique YA voice, with potential for further exploration beyond the confines of this class.