Testimonials

  • My summers at Young Writers were the best of my life. As a student, the more I learned about writing, the more I learned about myself.  I found an identity and I found a voice that was much louder than I expected.  I returned as a counselor, and as an administrator, but I was always a "student" of the workshop.  I learned as much from my students as I did from my teachers.  YWW is not a place or a time, but a state of mind.  Every time I meet an alumnus of the program we have an immediate connection--whether they were there in 1988 or 2008.  We may be older now, but we will always be Young Writers.

    Leah Woody

    YWW Alumna
  • It is not an exaggeration to say that Young Writers Workshop changed my life. This experience of catharsis is by no means unique; in fact it seems common in alumni. YWW is so influential on the people involved with it because of the profound power of writing in the context of community. Writing always represents a dynamic engagement between a perspective and the observed. With young writers this effect is even more pronounced because as people they are still coming into their own: their perspectives are flexible, eager, and, as they will realize, powerful. 

    Jack Nachmanovitch

    YWW Alumnus
  • It was as a student at YWW that I first felt taken seriously as a writer, which shaped my future as a serious poet and MFA graduate; it was as a counselor at YWW that I first felt taken seriously as a teacher, which shaped my future as a workshop instructor at both the high school and college levels. There's no doubt in my mind that nearly all of the skills I use in my poetry and teaching careers today I learned first at YWW. To say nothing of the fact that I have never had as much fun, or laughed as hard in my whole life, as I do every summer at YWW.

    Laura-Eve Engel

    YWW Alumna
  • What I see: “Listen to this!” one says.  They sit on the grass in pairs, the listener leans forward, as eager as the reader.  What I hear: silence of writing, pen on paper (or fingers on keyboard) in a room whose air is electric; pause to think and re-think; draft after draft.  What I remember: a letter from a parent, afterward--“She’s flying!”  YWW is a moment out of time, the past re-discovered as material for art, the future adumbrated--what it is to be a writer, to be dedicated, to form a living community--wisdom to last a life through.

    Kenny Marotta

    YWW Teaching Fiction Writer
  • When I think of my many years teaching poetry writing at the Young Writers Workshop, I think of, session by session, fifteen heads put together (no twittering, tweeting, Facebooking, or e-mailing), literally and literarily put together for the sake of fresh love for an immortal art form. In other words, I can’t help but wax poetic about all my students, the best minds of their generations. No, “students” is the wrong word—they taught me how to keep on keeping a hold on imagination’s relationship to the concrete world, which was, for a few summer weeks out of each year, not rough at all.

    Doug Nordfors

    YWW Teaching Poet
  • One of the greatest thrills any writer can imagine is to look into the eyes of the next generation of talent and say, "Welcome. We need you. You can do this. Here's how . . . "  As someone who has had that opportunity through the Young Writers Workshop, I want to give a huge shout out to the program and participants, and the brilliant voices that emerge. Welcome. We need you. Here's how . . . .

    Dahlia Lithwick

    Visiting Writer
  • I had the pleasure of visiting YWW twice to give readings and craft lectures, and both times I was impressed by the energy and intelligence of the students.  You can tell a lot about the quality of a group by the kind of audience they comprise, and I remember sitting at the back of the auditorium as a visiting poet gave her reading and watching the students respond to all the nuances in the work, whether by laughing or sighing or nodding at all the right places, and I thought, "Wow, they’re good."

    John McNally

    Visiting Writer
  • For much of my life, I’ve wanted to be a writer, and I don’t think it’s any different for the students who come to Young Writers. These students experience creative freedom, and a community dedicated to that freedom, for the first time. Students get the bug. They begin to imagine what their life would look like as a songwriter, a novelist, or screenwriter. The point of this workshop, however, isn’t to churn out professional writers. This isn’t an Iowa-style workshop, and writing isn’t necessarily a career path for everyone. For the vast majority of these students writing instead becomes – as it did for me – an undeniable richness: a way to make meaning out of their lives, and to share that utterly unique meaning with others.  

    Joe Chapman

    YWW Teaching Poet
  • In all my years teaching and performing I have never been part of a more inclusive, productive, and affirming gathering of creative people.  The environment created by the staff and students at Young Writers has changed countless students of mine, encouraging their aspirations, empowering their impossible dreams by an undeniable reality that they can do it.  I hold Young Writers in the highest regard and I think there is no better place on the planet for a young creative soul.  It’s a place where it’s not how you look or how cool you are – it’s about your work, your courage, and your insight.  As my own daughters grow up there are many moments where I use the lessons I learned at YWW.  And even though my path has taken me to TX, my heart is still in Charlottesville during the summer.

    Tom Prasada-Rao

    YWW Teaching Songwriter
  • YWW changes lives.  It changed mine.  I was a student in the early days of the program, there with my best friend and my two sharpened pencils, eager to “learn to write”—something I thought would transpire easily in two weeks.  And yes, I did learn a lot about writing, but even more about the writing life, the path I’d follow from then on.  And as a teacher I’ve seen it do the same for so many other kids who show up filled with hope and doubt and wondrous talents—so many talents!—that they are only beginning to unlock. “I can be myself here,” they say, “in a way I never knew before.” Just wait, I tell them.  You’ll see.  This is only the beginning.

    Jennifer Haupt (Jennifer Buxton)

    YWW Alumna
  • YWW was a huge part of our lives for many years.  Margo's passion for writing, for people, and for artists sharing what they do with the young generation of creative souls was so genuine and fervent that the environment she created at the workshops was a total immersion in expression, craft, and relationship between kindred minds and hearts.  Though we taught there some years ago, many of the songs we heard and the people we interacted with, both students and teachers, are emblazoned on our memories, and, in some cases, became lasting relationships.  (Yes, you can have a relationship with a song!)  We learned as much as we taught, about ourselves and about our craft.  Young Writer's Workshop was a shaping experience for us.  And it all comes back to Margo Figgins, whose powers of invention, discovery, persuasion, interest, and plain old love, are so inexhaustibly enormous.  We think of it often and our visits there, over the years, have been occasions for rejoicing!

    John D'earth and Dawn Thompson

    Visiting Artist and Teaching Songwriter
  • I’ve been trying for the past hour to craft the perfect opening sentence for this testimonial.  I am sitting in a small, bustling bagel shop in Brooklyn, NY—the ideal place to write and reminisce about my three summers in Virginia at Young Writers.  However, I continue to find myself thinking,  “I still can’t believe that a program, a community, a family like Young Writers really exists.”  Not only did it give me the tools to grow as a writer, but I also felt like a member of this passionately devoted and accepting community.  What more does a young writer need? 

    Mickey Betters

    YWW Alumna
  • As a recommending teacher of students who attend Young Writers Workshop, I get to witness the drastic changes within each camper I send. Either students find me with interest in the program, or, as a former member of the program's residential staff, I seek out students who could benefit from the experience that I describe to be the most formative of my life. Students leave with high expectations based on my high praise. Students return the next school year with an individualized adoration that far exceeds their expectations. Most of all, students make major discoveries that shape their identity. One student in mind left as a prose writer and returned transformed as a poet and is now studying poetry at Pratt University, thanks to his summer awakening.

    Carly Nicholson

    Recommending Teacher
  • YWW was really important to me and I think it greatly influenced my path so far in life. My first summer I was in a song writing workshop with Andrew Gregory. The experience was amazing because I came in knowing very little about music,  I soaked up so much knowledge from my peers and gained confidence. Performing in front of all of YWW was my first time singing on stage, and it was so exhilarating. I have not pursued songwriting, but I still love to sit down and sing along with my guitar, Gunther Pedro, on occasion. The next summer I was in a poetry workshop, I am now a writing major in college and YWW definitely planted the seeds that made me the writer I am today.

    Allie Shyer

    YWW Alumna
  • Often the biggest challenge to anyone wishing to explore their art is finding a community of individuals willing to share ideas and develop their craft in a positively critical and intensive setting.  YWW offers a unique crucible for writers of all sorts to develop confidence in their own vision.  Having pop, country, goth, rap and folk singers all in one place, immersed in exploration, critical mass is as inevitable as the explosion of creativity that follows."

    Greg Howard

    Visiting Artist and Teaching Songwriter
  • The Young Writers Workshop nurtures young writers from the inside out. We start with the heart. Young writers bond with counselors and suitemates in intimate living communities. They express creativity through mini-course electives. Their work is celebrated on stage on the very first day.  They feel safe, valued, supported. Then we move to the head: writers study strong models of writing on a daily basis. Instructors expose them to a variety of techniques, styles, modes. They exchange constructive feedback with peers and teachers. Their writing vocabulary expands as they mimic the techniques of their literary mentors. Young Writers changed my writing and my heart—even as a counselor. I learned to quiet my inner critic and trust my inner song.

    Allison (Hoover) Marchetti

    Recommending Teacher
  • “Who do you think you are? Why can’t you be like everybody else?” This withering evaluation—whether spoken or unspoken—is one that creative kids often endure during their high school years.  I taught a workshop on Performance Reading at YWW, and all three of my children are YWW alumni, so I speak from happy experience when I tell you this:  This workshop is where young writers belong, where they feel safe taking a creative risk. In this environment, a young writer’s nascent talent will be given every opportunity to take root and blossom.  It’s life changing. For real.

    Janis Jaquith

    Parent
  • What a glorious program Young Writers Workshop is! I’ve been a poet teaching at the University of Virginia for thirty-seven years and it’s the most exciting program I know of. I never taught for Margo officially, though I visited her program as a guest of the very first session thirty years ago. Did I mention that Margo was a poetry student of mine and enlisted me for that first visit and countless others since? What began as a brilliant idea (there are so many) became what it is now: a vital and thriving institution that teaches and encourages and inspires young writers at exactly the time in their lives when such a response matters so much. There have been countless imitations of YWW set up since (Margo always wanted it to be “replicable” as they say of experiments), but none can approach the original because of the genius of its founder and the dedication of the people she’s continuously brought along to realize this vision of a learning community of young people bursting with creative energy.

    Greg Orr

    Visiting Writer
  • Attending YWW as a fiction writer in 2008 was the first time I found peers who loved writing like me and who would talk about books, movies and current events for hours. It was the first time I found adults who never talked down to me, but instead understood me, respected me and took me seriously as a writer and person. As a counselor in 2012, I thought I'd just give back to the community, but instead it changed my life again with its openness and magic. Without YWW's formative power, I would not be the woman I am today.

    Morgan Kayser

    YWW Alumna
  • Even though I was a member of the ill-fated, storm-ravaged first session of 2012, I can safely say that the YWW experience has been one of the most significant and memorable of my high school career as of yet. I learned so much in so many ways--from peer and staff readings in the beautiful art gallery, to excursions into town for estate sales, to class activities intended to prompt creativity. In addition, I had the opportunity to meet some of the most interesting people--both students and faculty--I have been able to befriend. I would highly recommend YWW to any budding writers!

    Amanda Tu

    YWW Alumna
  • We're parents of a YWW alum -- Molly Brown, now an MFA student at the Michener Center in Austin, TX -- and writers who have worked with YWW students. As novelists and professors at Sweet Briar College, the arrival of the UVA Young Writers Workshop on our beautiful campus in the summer of 2012 was a dream come true, the perfect marriage of a lovely place and an extraordinary program. Sweet Briar's campus is three thousand gorgeous acres in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains; it has been a privilege to welcome the inspirational YWW to this inspirational landscape.

    Carrie and John Gregory Brown

    Parent
  • I've taught fiction writing at Young Writers for nine years now, and every single summer I've felt that same beautiful energy there--a combination of real imagination, love and friendship, self exploration, and a thrilling flat-out just going for it. All year, summer to summer, I carry this in my memory, and I talk about it with anyone who will listen. I feel so lucky to be part of this program.

    Suzy Chamandy

    YWW Teaching Fiction Writer
  • Though I was only able to participate in the YWW for a week during the 2012 session (Mother Nature had other plans for us, apparently), my time there was an unbelievable experience. I could go on and on about the beautiful landscape, the creativity around every corner, and the overwhelming amount I learned about writing and about myself, but what I found truly amazing was how I was surrounded by fellow writers everywhere I went. We learned, laughed, and wrote nonstop for a week, and I loved every minute of it.

    Nic DeAngio

    YWW Alumnus
  • I attended YWW in 1993 and 1994 for songwriting. The experience single-handedly changed my life and made me the person I am today. It is some of the greatest memories I have in my life. I am from a small, close-minded town and YWW introduced me to a whole new world of people and thinking, and showed me that is was okay to think the way I did and to be the person I was. I have been a musician/songwriter in Nashville now since 1996. It wouldn't have been possible without this wonderful camp. Thanks YWW.

    John Duffer

    YWW Alumnus
  • My time at YWW last year allowed me to grow more as a writer than I ever have. I accomplished more during this program than I ever have in regard to my writing . The staff are all amazing, and they are all writers. This was the first (and last) place that I will ever be around so many people my age who have the exact same passion as I do. YWW is the most beneficial experience I have had, in both my writing and my social life. The people make YWW, and I am in love with this program.

    Jacob Ratliff

    YWW Alumnus
  • "To those returning, welcome back! To those who are new, welcome home." Those were words that set off my skepticism. YWW was my third writing camp and none so far had felt like home. They felt like camps. However, when I left, I felt like I was leaving my home to go back to my house. It was jarring, but my writing wasn't the only thing that improved. I improved as a person. All I can say to anyone and everyone at YWW is: I hope we shall meet again in The Future.

    Rebecca Anisman

    YWW Alumna
  • Before coming to Young Writers, I had so many questions. I was questioning my writing, what I wanted to major in college, and what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.

    Young Writers answered all those questions in the most positive way. It completely solidified the fact that writing was not only something that I want to do; it is something that I have to do. I met so many people who I know I will be collaborating with and learning from for many years to come.

    Young Writers gives you support, love, and kindness. You form such strong bonds with people and connect on a very deep level. We were not afraid to be ourselves because we knew that we would be accepted for exactly who we were.

    Young Writers completely altered the course of my life. Where I’m applying to college, what I’m going to major in, and what I want to do as a career all changed for the better. My work was taken very seriously and I grew and improved so much as writer in the short span of three weeks. I felt like I really found my true self at Young Writers and found my voice as a poet. This is gift that I will never be able to repay.

    Jillian James

    YWW Alumna
  • I have attended the UVA Young Writers Workshop three years in a row, and each time, the experience has gotten better and better. I was a member of the infamous, ill-fated, derecho-doomed 2012 first session, which was cut in half by the monster storm. It was a fantastic week nonetheless, and, come next summer, I applied again for the same two-week session. I was actually leaning towards not submitting, and it was only under the gentle pressure of my mother that I caved and sent YWW what they needed. And I am incredibly glad I did, for towards the end of that 2013 session, I decided that – and I speak no hyperbole when I say this – I no longer had a best day of my life, I had a best two weeks. I was worried, in a way, when I tried for my third fiction workshop, about how in the world 2014 could possibly compare to 2013 – worries quickly realized to be unfounded by an experience that changed my best two weeks into my best four weeks. Impossibly incredible people; the suite counselors, the workshop instructors, the faculty, and, lastly, but perhaps most importantly, the young writers themselves. It’s a dense accumulation of dedicated writers, artists, friends, being guided by the brilliant minds of their instructors and counselors. The camp has shaped my life, informing it in unique ways during and after each session, and even though I call myself a writer, I have no words to describe the enormity, the essence, or the exhilaration of the UVA Young Writers Workshop.

    Chris Drucker

    YWW Alumnus
  • I particularly enjoyed my workshop sessions, and breaking down each member of our class’s work while offering both positive comments and suggestions to help improve his or her writing. It was tough at first to put my writing and myself in a position of vulnerability by sharing, but my classmates and teachers were so warm and caring. I discovered much about my writing from these workshop sessions, such as my weak points and how to improve on them.

    “Ohana” means “family” and it can accurately describe these beautiful two weeks in YWW. I consider all my friends at this summer camp my second family, and I haven’t felt such community and love amongst a group of people ever in my life. There are few other places where young, aspiring writers can gather in a tolerant, accepting setting and pour their hearts out, whether it is on the Open Mic night, in workshops, or on the Writers Cafe. This has been two of the most incredible weeks of my life, and I am proud to call myself a YWW alumni. I highly recommend this program to all young writers, they will find only love and acceptance, a paradise where they can find solace from the rest of the world and let their writing sprout wings into the sunset.

    Paul Xu

    YWW Alumnus