At Juniper on the UMass Amherst college campus, Betsy Wheeler (Managing Director) and Jennifer Jacobson (Juniper Director) walk around South College. They are going to be hosting teens from all over the world to come work on their writing. They are bursting with excitement; they have been planning this week for over a year now, and it is finally here. Finishing up their final check on everything, with beaming smiles and happy, light voices, they welcome the energetic teens who enter.
What is Juniper?
Juniper is a writing institute designed specifically for teens in high school. This program is made to help inspire and develop teens’ writing. Teens go for one week during the summer to develop their writing community and read and edit each others’ work. This program is for anyone who loves writing. You must be a rising sophomore, junior or senior in order to attend. While I was there, I met a rising senior from Los Angeles, California, a rising junior from Connecticut, and a rising sophomore from Reno, Nevada.
Why should you go to Juniper?
Juniper is 100 percent worth going to if you want a career in any type of writing. At Juniper, you will be challenged to try different styles and techniques of writing. For example, I consider myself a novelist, but when I went to Juniper, they challenged me to write poems, and I fell in love with being a poet. In my workshop, my mentor had us make word banks of words we do not normally use and try to incorporate some of those words into our writing. This will force you to step out of your comfort zone and see if you like any other writing styles.
“Flying out from Reno, Nevada was definitely worth it,” said Lexi Deeter, a Juniper alum. “The friends I made and the skills I learned are long-lasting. Since writing communities don’t really exist where I live, having those second and third pairs of eyes allowed me to turn a hobby into a passion.”
What workshops are available?
The workshops change every year because the mentors who direct them are also changing, but they always revolve around fiction, poetry or visionary art writings. For example, mine was a freewriting workshop, where everyone brought in a piece of their writing and shared it, then gave each piece editorial advice.
Will I get free time to work on my writing?
Yes, they will alway give you free time to write. However, if you do not feel inspired, writing time will be your free time to get to know your “pod” (the group you are assigned). My pod had movie time with snacks, and we bonded over our love of romantic comedies.
Is submitting an application hard?
No, the application process is easy! To apply, fill out their online application on their website (https://www.umass.edu/juniperinstitute/#/). When it becomes available, send a writing sample, and select what type of workshop you want.
How much does the program cost?
The program costs around $1,800, which includes housing and food. When you apply, they will present you with the cost and choices in housing/food. If you are accepted and decide you want to go, you have to put down $200 immediately towards tuition costs.
They do offer a full scholarship. I was lucky enough to get to full scholarship and everything was covered completely. (Pay attention to their website https://www.umass.edu/juniperyoungwriters/scholarship-sponsors to apply for the schoolarship). The full scholarship covers the cost of the housing, tuition, food and transportation.
Where is Juniper?
Juniper is hosted by the MFA Program for Poets and Writers at the UMass Amherst campus. UMass Amherst is in Western Massachusetts, about two hours from Boston.
Overall, you should give Juniper a chance and apply to go to this once-in-a-lifetime immersion program— it will be worth the cost! Make sure to use all of the opportunities they give you, such as performing at an open mic or going to an optional mentor workshop.
“Juniper was a fantastic experience,” said Laura Chin, a Juniper alum, “and I would recommend it to anyone who's looking to learn a lot about writing and also become part of a very talented, slightly strange, extremely wonderful and lovable community of young writers.”