By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
The English Department at Oklahoma City University will host the inaugural Smokewood Institute for Young Writers this summer. It is an intensive two-week program of writing workshops, craft sessions, creative readings and a culminating anthology of student work.
The curriculum consists of a complete Introductory Creative Writing course, which counts as a 3-credit course toward an English major at OCU. It is likely to transfer to other colleges for credit, as well, though it may not fulfill their specific English degree requirements.
The program will run from July 12 through 25 on the OCU campus at NW 23rd and Blackwelder.
English professors Rob Roensch and Karen Schiler will guide students through a curriculum that consists of a complete introduction to creative writing.
Beyond the classroom, students will spend time participating in creative outings through partner programs on campus and around the city, at venues such as the Oklahoma City Museum of Art and the Oklahoma History Center.
Students will meet daily to work on their own material and learn about craft across multiple genres. Young writers will have the chance to participate in specialized sessions offered by guest writers in conjunction with the Red Earth MFA program.
Serious students working in any genre, of varying styles, are encouraged to apply.
To be eligible, students must have completed at least their sophomore year of high school. Certain test scores and GPA levels may be required.
Schiler, director of the institute, said she is looking forward to watching creative young minds at work.
“The institute provides an opportunity for promising high school students to further explore their art through a challenging, stimulating camp experience,” Schiler said “We are excited to see what they can make with words.”
Roensch is the assistant director of the Red Earth MFA program at OCU. He has an MFA in creative writing from Cornell University, and he has experience teaching at the high school and college levels. His short story collection, “The Wildflowers of Baltimore,” won the International Scott Prize for Short Stories in 2012.
“Our goal is to offer an exclusive creative writing summer camp to students who might otherwise head out of state,” said Roensch.
“The Smokewood Institute should appeal to those high school students who are interested in a more challenging creative writing experience including participating in workshops, attending lectures and readings, and producing an anthology of student work.”
“The Smokewood Institute is a chance for the best local young creative writers to come together and benefit from each others’ work,” Roensch added. “We are looking for writers who will draw from the rich experience and constructive feedback we can provide.”
Schiler has a doctorate in composition and rhetoric and has worked as editor of The Southern California Anthology. From 2010 through 2012 she directed the Drew University Ranger Writers program for college students interested in writing novels, poetry and screenplays.
The institute is named after Elaine Smokewood, a popular OCU English professor who was diagnosed with a neurological disease. Despite losing the ability to talk, Smokewood taught classes via state-of-the-art remote teaching technology during the last couple of years of her life before she passed away in 2011.
As an early admission special, applicants who complete and submit their application by April 10 are eligible for a customized master class with Professor Roensch, focusing on their work.
“We see OCU as a great place to host the program since we will be able to integrate historical and artistic experiences in Oklahoma City along with college-level instruction and feedback,” Roensch sadi. “The two-week program will also confer college credit.”
Forms can be submitted by mail to: OCU English Department, Attn: Smokewood Institute, 2501 N Blackwelder, Oklahoma City, OK 73106.