Creative Writing Opportunities for High School Students
If you’re a high school student interested in creative writing, you may or may not have a number of broad extracurricular options to pursue during the school year, depending on your school. You might be a part of your school’s literary magazine, or participate in creative writing workshops. Maybe you are lucky enough to attend a school with dedicated creative writing classes or poetry electives.
But what if your school doesn’t seem to offer much for students who want to pursue creative writing? Or what if you don’t even know where to begin looking? How can you keep your momentum headed towards your goal or otherwise use your time productively if you passionate about creative writing?
There are many activities available to high school students who enjoy creative writing. Some might be available through your school, but many are out there waiting for you to pursue them independently.
In this post, we’ll outline how you can take the initiative to pursue multiple creative writing opportunities both in and out of school. Keep reading to learn more about what opportunities are out there for high school-aged creative writers.
Why Pursue Creative Writing?
There are many reasons to pursue extracurriculars in general. They can serve to strengthen your academic profile, they allow you to pursue interests not otherwise available through traditional classwork, and they can provide valuable, real-world experience.
Creative writing is an extracurricular that is closely tied with your academic coursework in English and Language Arts and in fact is probably a partial requirement of at least some of your English classes. Pursuing it further exemplifies your commitment to the craft and gives you some insight into writing as a possible career path.
It might be easy to think of creative writing as nothing more than a hobby, but in reality many careers exist in which strong writing skills are coveted. By pursuing creative writing, you become well equipped for a career as not only an author or poet, but also in many other fields. We’ll discuss these more in depth at the end of this post.
Opportunities to Pursue Creative Writing
This is the most obvious and most common way to study and produce creative writing in a formal setting at school. Many schools already have a literary magazine established and likely have regular meetings and a faculty adviser equipped to lend insight and advice.
You can usually join your school’s literary magazine at the beginning of a new school year, though you may also be able to join mid-year in some circumstances. Contact the editor or faculty advisor if you want to become involved. Over time you may even be able to take on a leadership role yourself. To learn more about the importance of this, check out CollegeVine’s Your Resume, Revamped: Securing Leadership Positions and Perfecting Your Extracurricular Profile.
Another way to be involved with the literary magazine, even if you aren’t a part of its team, is to become a regular contributor. This isn’t always easy; some schools have highly competitive literary magazines or only produce one printed edition per year. If this is the case at your school, don’t get discouraged. Submit your best work, learn from feedback, and keep trying.
If your school does not have a literary magazine, you might consider starting one. Begin by talking to other students who have expressed interest in creative writing. Once you have a strong group of interested students, approach a member of your school’s faculty who would make a good adviser.
Your faculty adviser should be someone who has worked closely with you in the past and has some level of expertise in creative writing. Be clear what sort of commitment you are asking for from this person. You may need him or her to be present at every meeting, or you might simply need his or her signature and sporadic stamp of approval. Also remember that you will have some associated costs so having a faculty adviser who can help with fundraising could be important.
Literary magazines provide students interested in creative writing with some general insights into a formal writing publication, a glimpse at the process for submitting work and receiving feedback, and the opportunity to have their writing published for all to see.
Creative Writing Club:
If your school does not have a literary magazine or you are interested in pursuing creative writing in a less formal setting, a creative writing club might be a good bet for you.
These clubs generally operate as regular writing workshops during which students respond to prompts or practice free-writing, and then share their work and offer feedback to others. It is often similar to the submissions approval process at a literary magazine without the stress of possible rejection.
In addition, a creative writing club does not generally produce a publication, though some might print a collection of work at the end of the school year. Again, this differs from the traditional literary magazine because work is selected by the author rather than submitted for acceptance or rejection.
If your school does not have a creative writing club, it is easy to start one. Because there is no associated publication as in the case of a literary magazine, the process is generally less formal. You could meet before or after school and sometimes you don’t even need a faculty adviser; you just need a teacher who’s willing to share classroom space outside of school hours.
Alternatively, you could form a writing club that is completely independent of your school by meeting at the library or a friend’s house. Simply gather creative writing exercises from books or online searches and then gather on a regular basis to respond to them, share work, and offer constructive criticism.
A creative writing club can also be an important accountability tool for students who are working on independent creative writing projects. If you’re writing a longer piece or even a novel, or working on a collection of poetry, meeting regularly with like-minded writers can help to keep you on track and provide outside feedback that might otherwise be unavailable.
Creative Writing Tutor:
If creative writing is your passion and you want to share it with others, you might consider becoming a creative writing tutor for younger students.
Contact a local elementary school and ask if you might be able to volunteer. If so, arrive prepared to lead a small writer’s workshop. Bring any handouts you might need and practice your oral presentation ahead of time. If you need some inspiration for activities, check out the Creative Writing for Children page at PBS parents or the Story Starters page at Scholastic. These kid-friendly writing prompts are sure to inspire even the youngest authors.
If you can’t find a volunteer position at an elementary school, you could try reaching out to other local organizations. Girl or boy scout troops, community centers, or the local library are all possibilities.
Leading a creative writing group for younger students is a great way to hone your own thinking about creative writing, to practice your teaching and leadership skills, and to give back to your community.
If you’re looking for more direction for your writing, and the idea of fame and fortune intrigues you, you should consider entering some writing contests. There are many to choose from, and most offer either cash prizes or scholarship money. Some are also quite prestigious.
For a list of some of the most respected writing contests open to high schoolers, check out The CollegeVine Ultimate Guide to High School Writing Contests.
As is now the case for most extracurriculars, there are many strong summer programs to choose from if you’d like to pursue creative writing during your school break. These programs can be competitive to get into and you will usually be required to submit a writing portfolio as a part of your application.
Programs such as these also strengthen your college application and reinforce your commitment to writing. A few of the strongest are:
- Kenyon Review Young Writer’s Workshop
- California State Summer School for the Arts (Primarily for California residents, but a small number of non-residents are accepted each year.)
Many of these programs have scholarships available, so if finances are a concern, be sure to research a few options before ruling anything out.
In addition, many colleges offer summer programs in creative writing as well. These are usually similar in format to any of the aforementioned summer programs, with the added bonus of allowing you to build connections at colleges or universities that you might wish to attend.
See if any schools on your list of potential colleges or universities offer summer programs and look into attending those. Otherwise, consider one of the following, which are known for their high quality instruction:
Start a Blog
If you find that you are writing often but have nowhere to showcase your work or have trouble holding yourself accountable for producing work on a regular basis, starting your own blog might be a good fit. A blog is a great way to share your writing on a public platform, it can act as an informal portfolio of your work, and it helps to hold you accountable to a larger audience.
Many blogs are easily set up and hosted for free on websites such as WordPress, Blogger, LiveJournal, or Weebly. Share a link to your blog on your social media accounts or send out a group email to let friends and family know about it. As is the case any time you add to your online presence, be sure to discuss your plans with a parent or guardian ahead of time.
Get Published Elsewhere
A blog isn’t the only platform for publishing your work. Many magazines and periodicals accept submissions from high school students. A long list of publications reviewing high school submissions can be found in the NewPages Young Authors’ Guide.
You can also check with local publications like newspapers, smaller regional magazines, or even blogs you follow that might accept a guest post.
There are a myriad of ways to get your work to a bigger audience, and if that’s something you’re interested in doing, don’t be shy about asking or even sending unsolicited submissions. All it takes is one person to take a chance on you before you can call yourself a published author.
Career Aspirations for the Creative Writer
It’s easy to think of creative writing as the entry point to becoming a novelist or poet. You might even think that these are your only long-term career options should you choose to pursue creative writing seriously.
This is definitely not the case. Many, many career paths incorporate writing, and while you may not be writing fictional works the entire time, that does not mean that you won’t be incorporating your background in creative writing. All strong writing benefits from creativity.
Writers are especially valued in the fields of:
- American Literature
- Digital Media
- Educational and Instructional Technology
- Media Studies
- Public Relations
- Radio and Television
- Sports Communications
- Technical and Business Writing
- Webpage and Multimedia Design
Remember, pursuing creative writing doesn’t necessarily mean you have to write a novel or publish a collection of poetry. Writers have valuable skills that can be applied broadly depending on their others skills and interests.
If you’re interested in learning more about writing programs in college and the possible career paths they afford, check out CollegeVine’s Mentoring Program, which provides practical advice on topics from high school activities and college applications to career aspirations, all from successful college students who have been in your shoes.
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