Do you have an aspiring author in your family? I do.
My daughter Katie has been writing stories since she was in first grade. It is what she loves to do. As I have searched for resources to help her, I discovered writing conferences--especially those for teens. We have decided that the ones in Utah are really exceptional because it has a very unique writing culture and much to offer kids like her:
-At least five New York Times best selling authors live within 100 miles of each other: Jennifer Nielsen, Shannon Hale, Jessica Day George, Brandon Mull, and Brandon Sanderson.
-They live in a predominately religious community, and thus usually tend to keep their stories clean for all readers.
-Lastly, they all embrace the mentality of cooperation, not competition. They believe in helping struggling authors, teaching what they know, and giving business to each other.
As Jennifer Nielsen put it, as we were chatting with she and J. Scott Savage, "I can't write quickly enough for my readers. What takes me months to write, some people can read in a day. But if I can send them to read some of Scott's work, they are happy, he is happy, and I am taking good care of my readers." I love this mentality! Scott is also quick to send his readers to Jennifer.
Happily, most of these writers (and many others besides them) feel this way, and because of that, they put on amazing conferences for those who are wanting to learn. We value them so much, that we are willing to travel to Utah several times a year in order to participate.
Here are the conferences that we (mostly Katie, but sometimes me as well) have gone to. They are all great, are one day each and cost $75 or less.
Writing For Charity
This charity was founded by Shannon Hale, Newberry Honor medalist and NYT best selling author. All proceeds go towards supplying books for children in areas where there are very limited resources. This conference is for both teens and adults. Katie and I have gone for the past two years and have loved it. Opportunities are available to speak and pitch to agents, have your work critiqued by published authors, make connections with publishers and of course, attend a smorgasbord of classes on character development, self-publishing, plot twists, mental health and writing, writers block, writing a query letter and all sorts of other things. All authors are incredibly encouraging and the whole event is wonderful. This is the only event I have attended, so now, I'll turn the rest of the post over to Katie!
Katie, here! Hello!
I really love this conference! The authors there are so cool- they share a LOT of information and advice, and are really nice- they also think it's really cool you're there, and try to help you out. I think one reason I like this conference so much, is because they give you SO much in depth, quality information. I think my favorite class was on "Plot Twists and Turns", by Jennifer Nielsen.
Teen Author Boot Camp
I guess the first thing that I should say about this conference, was that no adults/parents were allowed. That meant that there were about 600 teenagers, with the only adults there being authors (or writers)- it made me really nervous at first, because there were a LOT more people there than I was expecting. It turned out well though- everyone was super nice, and it was easy to find a topic to talk about, since all of us there wrote.
After the welcomes and announcements, we started off with a keynote from Dan Wells (the keynote speaker changes each year). After the key note and for most of the day, they had multiple classes and/or panels going at once, about tons of different things: character development, world-building, plotting, genre, and a ton more. I'd have to say that one of my favorite classes was on world-building, by Jennifer Nielsen (can you tell that she is one of my favorites?). Lunch and four classes later, we had an ending key note from Margaret Peterson Haddix. She was our last speaker- after that, the winners of the picture and First Chapter Contest were announced (they read sections of each winning chapter out loud- it was cool to hear what some of the others had written). Afterwards, the authors were available to sign books if you wanted to buy one.
Overall, I thought it was really cool- there were SO many people interested in your craft, it was almost startling. It was cool to be able to connect and talk to published authors, and to hear what they had to say. I would say that the information was a little more dumbed down than from "Writing for Charity", but I think that was because they were aiming towards a younger audience. Overall, I'm glad I went. :)
Teen Writers Conference
The class structure was similar to other conferences- each hour, you had multiple classes that you could choose from. In the middle, we had an hour lunch- afterwards, we had a keynote by Chad Morris , He was really fun to listen to. Also, at the end, instead of another keynote, we had a Q&A panel by the authors. The questions they answered came from questions the attendees wrote down and submitted during the conference. This was pretty interesting, because you heard lots of different view points, on lots of different subjects, in a relatively short amount of time. After that, the winners of the First Page Contest were announced (the contest was really cool- everyone who submitted/participated got a written critique, even those who didn't win).
Summary: I think that writing conferences in general are really good things to go to. They expose you to more ideas and techniques, they introduce you to new people, and help give you new tools and/or ways to influence your writing. Getting the feedback that many conferences provide is really good too. I don't think there's anything to lose by going to them. I'd definitely recommend attending- they help give you new energy, vision, and determination for your writing.
Community Question: Tell us about your budding author. What does he/she love to write? Also, what other conferences are you aware of that would be appropriate for teens? We would love to expand our resources!
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