By Rebecca Kilroy, Summer Intensive Coordinator
We’ve said it countless times, so much so that it’s become a refrain during the Summer Intensive: we would be lost without our interns. From directing car loops on the very first morning to stacking chairs on the last, they keep us going.
Many of them have been with us for multiple summers, often starting out as students. They’ve watched us go from pre-COVID to virtual to hybrid. They each have a unique perspective on the Intensive and what inspires them to return year after year.
This spring, as a lead-up to our tenth anniversary summer, we decided to ask them: what does the Summer Intensive mean to you? The responses were varied, hilarious and heartening. They reminded us of all the things that make this space for young writers special.
By far the biggest draw of the Intensive for many of our interns is the community they found here. Our dedicated intern and social media coordinator Emily explained that “Since in school so often creative writing kind of gets pushed to the side, it was really hard for me to find my people.” Arriving at the Intensive brought “The first time that I was in a room of people where I really felt like we were on the same wavelength.”
When I was a student myself, I experienced the same incredible gift of “a community of kids who enjoy writing,” as our intern Jake put it. “It’s an environment full of people your age who all want to create something amazing with their words and all foster the same passion,” Ayana explained. Over the course of the week, this shared passion leads to some incredible group work, from epic poems to short plays on our Wednesday adventures. It also forges friendships that last far beyond the summer.
Writing often seems like a solitary pursuit, but our interns stressed there is so much to be gained from joining a community. “Surrounded by all these crazy talented people, you just get inspired,” Audrey explained. Livvy echoed this saying she found “a constant stream of inspiration and motivation to write”. While we’d like to say our trips and prompts can take full credit for this, so much of it comes from the interactions between students and between students and instructors. “I felt so supported by the instructors,” Emily said, “I really felt like they wanted to hear my voice and my stories.”
For many interns, the confidence they discovered as a result of their new-found connections helped them push the boundaries of their writing. “For me, what the Intensive has meant is just an opportunity to really see what directions my writing can go and try new things with my writing,” Audrey explained. Interns are often called on to take classes outside their comfort zones. I remember being a stuck-in-my-ways prose writer faced with a spoken word workshop for the first time. Line breaks? Meter? Rhyme? But in the end, the experience strengthened my writing. It also showed me I can do more than I think. Audrey had a similar experience when taking a Humor Writing class for the first time: “I found I can be funny.”
Confidence is also key to sharing your work with the world. Through in-class workshops, end-of-week readings and the online Writers Circle Journal, we encourage all our Intensive students to share their work at some point in the week. Though daunting at first, the support of their fellow writers can help ease the initial anxiety. “Being so comfortable with everyone really helped me step out of my comfort zone and be able to share more of my work,” Ashley explained.
Ultimately, camaraderie and confidence can transform more than just a student’s writing. As Emily shared, “The program made me so much less afraid to just be myself authentically.” For many students, myself included, the friendships that began at the Intensive have lasted for years. They’ve given me a space to bring my fullest self, with all the eccentricities only writers appreciate. And because my friends and instructors saw me as a “real” writer, I was able to confidently claim this identity. My time at the Intensive helped me build a central part of myself.
I’ve witnessed it time and again over my summers there: students who come in hesitant or unsure soon find themselves in a safe, supportive space. In finding a community, writers find their voice.