Sunset Press, the first — and only — student-run publishing press at Kenyon, has created a new venture to extend the scope of their work: a summer workshop targeting teens interested in creative writing.
The “Sunset Summer Session” will run as a five-week virtual program, beginning July 13 and ending August 14, and is available to anyone ages 14-18. Classes will meet for two hours twice a week, where instructors will guide lessons and discussions on “key elements of the creative process across poetry, nonfiction, fiction, and hybrid genre,” according to the Sunset Press website. The Summer Session will also host panels led by Kenyon faculty — namely Kenyon Review Fellow Misha Rai, Richard L. Thomas Professor of Creative Writing Ira Sukrungruang, Assistant Professor of English Andrew Grace and Kenyon Review Fellow Molly McCully Brown.
Throughout the summer, students will respond to prompts and lessons while also writing their own work. The students’ finished products will be featured in an anthology, which they will read live to an audience.
Emmy Roday ’20 and Armiya “A” Shaikh ’20, the editors-in-chief of the Press, will direct the summer program. According to a 2019 Collegian article, Shaikh had the idea to start the press while taking Introduction to Poetry Writing (ENGL 201). Their inspiration to create the summer session came about in a similar fashion, realizing the value of literary workshops.
“I think that this [workshop] is more relevant and needed and urgent, now more than ever,” Roday said. “Because it is the space that allows you to be both a student and a teacher to your own work and to others. And it’s this very sort of symbiotic space that cultivates strong relationships with your writing and others.”
Currently, Sunset Press has five workshop teachers, three members planning the summer’s curriculum and one graphic designer, all of whom are current Kenyon students. Roday sees an inherent value in having students leading and devising the program.
“What it means to be a good teacher is understanding what it means to have been a student,” she said. “Because the most sensitive and empathetic and compassionate and aware way of leading a classroom is knowing what it is to be in the position of the people that are receiving [the] education that you’re giving.”
Shaikh and Roday also recognize the importance of engaging with current events — ranging from the COVID-19 pandemic to the Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests. They believe creative freedom and unfiltered expression are critical in a workshop environment.
Shaikh mentioned how she was in a creative nonfiction workshop last semester, which responded to the prompt: How do writers respond to the current moment.
“But writing about such a collective grief is kind of hard to verbalize …”Shaikh said. “So while our curriculum might be informed by current events, I don’t want to ever be in a position where I’m like, ‘you have to write about the pandemic, you have to write about this’ … That goes against what we want to do — which is, again, generate organic work.”
By focusing the curriculum on contemporary literature and authors, Shaikh and Roday hope the texts themselves will inspire and direct the students.
What is also notable about the Sunset Summer Session is that it is free. While other similar programs charge up to $100 for entry, Roday and Shaikh went for a more charitable approach.
“We have no tuition because we believe that this should be inclusive to everybody and [we’d] rather redirect your financial interest and donations toward our BLM fund,” said Roday. “As an arts organization, we chose [four] very relevant organizations that we hope to support — that support black lives, that support black voices, activists and artists — especially artists.”
Applications for the Summer Session will close on July 5 at 11:59 p.m. Shaikh urges any prospective attendees to take the leap and apply.
“If you want to do this, this is a program for you. If you are sitting at home thinking that ‘I wish I was writing. I wish I was writing with other people. I wish I had someone to read my work,’” Shaikh said. “[if you need] any sort of motivation that can push you past [a] kind of writing slump right now, this is the program for you.”
Applications to the Sunset Summer Session can be submitted via this link.