Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Teen Writers Conference

I'm participating in a teen writers conference in June, and I wanted to post a little bit of information about it. There will be some great authors there, and if you are a teen, or know of a teen, who loves to write, this just may be the conference for you.

The following is an interview with Josi Kilpack, the chairperson of the conference.

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I’m a mother of four, ages 15-7, and an author of 9 novels, with a tenth coming out in August. I have been a member of multiple writing groups, large and small, and a committee member and former conference chair for numerous writer’s conferences. In addition, I’m a frequent presenter to schools and groups, a fabulous cook (if I do say so myself) and amateur chicken farmer.

You are the conference chairperson for an upcoming writers' conference for kids. Please tell us about the purpose of the conference.

Several of the committee members and myself have been involved with putting together writing conferences for several years. We started small and have grown until our most recent conference had well over 250 attendants. Over the years we have had some teenagers attend our conference, and while they have enjoyed the experience, it seems to also be a bit overwhelming to walk into a two day, morning to night information-fest. So, we began discussing the idea of having a conference where the format, classes, and overall environment is created specifically to give kids, ages 13-19, the best overall introduction to writing conferences as well as instruction that will be most helpful to where they are now on their journey of being a writer. From there we started throwing out ideas and it really just rolled all together until we have this; THE Teen Writer’s Conference.

What is your purpose for the conference? What do you hope the teens who come discover?

JOSI: Our hope is that the attendees will discover a lot of things, 1) That they are not the only kids that write 2) That whatever goals or ambitions they might have in regard to becoming a writer are within reach 3) That it takes knowledge and time and concerted effort to accomplish those goals. Those of us on the committee, all of us being writers ourselves, have spent years honing our craft and are excited to help set these kids on that same path—perhaps earlier than we ever started.

What kind of classes will you be offering?

JOSI: We will have classes that focus on actual elements of writing, as well as classes on book markets, the publishing process, and what they can do now to best prepare themselves for a future in writing. We have a variety of classes so as to appeal to both new and experiences writers.

What if a teen would like to come, but is really shy? Will there be anything that will put him or her at unease?

JOSI: Our entire focus and reason for putting this conference together is to create a comfortable place for young writers to come, learn, and flourish. We have been and will continue to put their comfort as our first priority because we know if they are intimidated and anxious, they will not benefit from this experience. However, we also expect them to be ready for this experience. Each youth, along with their parents, will need to determine if they are ready to be a part of this. Not all teen writers will be, and that’s okay. We hope to make this an annual event, so if this year won’t work, then perhaps by next year they will be ready.

What is your overall goal for every youth that attends the Teen Writers' Conference?

JOSI: That they leave encouraged and inspired to do their best, to hone their craft, and to truly reach for the stars in regard to their writing and their life. We also hope they will make friends with one another and feel a sense of community among other writers their own age.

How were you able to get such excellent editors and famous writers to attend?

JOSI: Well, in all humility I have to admit that they are my friends—my very good friends. We are like-minded people that saw a common goal and made it happen. I admire each and every person on this committee, and understand the sacrifice they each make to be a part of this. We are joined in this purpose as well as in our passion for great writing. I am blessed to rub shoulders with some of the best writer’s out there and the attendees get to benefit from that gift in my life.

When is it and how do teens register?

JOSI: Registration is open for another 4 weeks. To register, attendees need to go to the website www.teenwritersconference.com and print off the registration form. Those attendees under the age of 17 will need parental permission to attend; then they will mail the completed registration, along with payment, to the address printed on the page. They, and their parent, will receive a welcome e-mail upon receipt of their registration as well as updates as the conference gets closer. Updates will also be posted on the website.

Finally, this conference is for 13 to 19 year olds. Why that age group?

JOSI: We discussed this issue at length, and then simply decided since it was a TEEN conference, we would make it open to TEENS only. We feel that having them among their peers will help them relax and yet be willing to ask questions, meet other kids, and focus on the instruction we’re providing. For the older attendees, this will likely be a kind of introduction to adult-focused writer’s conferences, showing them what to expect and how the typical conference is organized. For the younger attendees, we hope they will come back year after year and continue learning about what they can do in the future.

Any other information you'd like to share?

JOSI: We’ve had some parents express concern in regard to leaving their children at the conference without them. Again, this conference isn’t right for all teens, or all parents, but we do ask that parents consider the value of letting their children experience the independent nature of this conference. As a committee, we are dedicated to their safety and comfort; they will come to no harm while attending. And while we ask that parents stay clear of the conference rooms, there are many places on campus that are great for reading or getting some other work done if they worry about going too far away. We will also allow attendees to keep cell-phones on silent throughout the conference so that parents are only a phone call. For those attendees without cell-phones, they are welcome to use a committee members phone at any time.

Where can people go to find more information, and especially to learn about the writing contest made available just for those who attend?

JOSI: http://www.teenwritersconference.com has all the details of the conference, contest, venue, etc. If something is not answered, there are e-mail links that will send you to us so we can give you the details you are looking for.

Monday, April 27, 2009


Once a year, the LDStorymakers hold a conference. I think it's hands down, the best writers conference in the state. The only bad thing about the conference is that once it's over, I get depressed. I know it's a lot of work to put on, but couldn't we hold this thing once a quarter? Or every other week?

A few things I learned this year:

Carole Thanye is great. I rode down to the conference with her, and there wasn't a single moment when we weren't talking about something interesting. I've always enjoyed talking with her, but there are rarely opportunities to do so. Riding for three hours with her to the conference was a great start to the weekend.

Los Hermanos does not follow the mantra; eat food, not too much, mostly plants. I got their burrito and there was about 8 pounds of beef, pork, and chicken. I didn't much care for it, but if you're into eating a big ol' pile of meat, this is the place for you.

Friday was boot camp, and I met some great folks who are very talented. They all had some great starts to stories they were working on. We heard a few really good presentations, and then I did my first presentation of the day. Nobody threw food, so I felt it went OK.

To kick off the conference, the incomparable Rob Wells gave us a history of the LDStorymakers conference. It is one of those events that can't be described; you just had to be there. But if you were there, you were likely grabbing your belly while tears of laughter rolled down your cheeks.

On Friday I also met with Stacy Whitman, a freelance editor. She gave me some good feedback on the first chapter of my book. I have conversed with Stacy many times online, but this was the first time we had met in person.

In the afternoon I gave my 130 slide presentation. Yes, that's right, 130 slides of information in 45 minutes. I think I only had 4 bullet points though; most of the slides were single words, or images to drive a point home. I got high marks on the feedback sheets, so I think it went well.

Friday evening we had a wonderful talk by Dean Lorey. I had not heard of Dean's YA series before the conference, but I'm a big fan of another little project he was involved with called Arrested Development (best television comedy of all time).

That night, we went out for Italian ice cream. It was a great time to talk with both published authors and the up and comers. I had a wonderful talk with Eric Swedin, Janette Rallison, Kristi Stevens, Melinda Morley, and more. These kind of impromptu meetups are what makes the whole conference worth it.

Boot camps continued the next day, and the final day of the conference began. I'm a firm believer in the saying that all work and no play make Jack a dull boy, so I don't hang out with Jack. I also try to get in a bit of play, wherever I go. So Rob Wells, Dan Wells, and myself snuck into a corner room and played Small World. You know a game is good when you lose twice, and still want to run right out and purchase it. We also snuck in a game of Dominion, my current favorite game.

Eventually, all good things must come to an end, and the conference came to a close. But before we all went home, a few of us stayed after and attended the Whitney Awards. I got to blog the entire event with the amazing and talented Jaime Theler and Tristi Pinkston. We had a wild time, and you can relive the Whitneys over on the Whitney site. I was clearly the one with the most grammatical errors, but I vindicated myself by eating the most cheesecake.

Jaime and I also had the privilege of presenting James Dashner with his award. Jaime's presentation demeanor more than made up for my stammering, sputtering, and choking into the microphone.

And thus the conference came to a close. It was depressing to see it end so soon, but I think the entire conference can best be summed up by the phrase, 'and a good time was had by all'. I'm already looking forward to next year.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Tweeting from the Nineteenth Century

CNN had a headline today called Tweeting from the 20th century. The story told is of a lost postcard delivered some 47 years later. Well, I've got news of even older tweets going on; Tweeting from the Civil War.

This project started like most of my projects do; with me goofing around. I was reading a book called World War Z. World War Z is unique in that it has no protagonist. There is not one hero or group of people you follow through the entire story. Instead, the book reads like a collection of reports from NPR's Morning Edition. Through about 40 stories, you begin to get a feel for the narrative. It's a very interesting way to tell a story.

Well, while sitting on my couch following a few # tags on Twitter, the idea hit me. If you can tell a story through 40 characters in a book, why not tell a story through 40 characters on Twitter? Or better yet, not just a story, but history itself.

The more I thought about it, the more excited I got. I tracked down a few journals and diaries from the Civil War. I was able to collect about ten people who experienced, or were involved in some other way, the Battle of Gettysburg. I've started tweeting their journals day-by-day, as it happened 146 years ago. So if David Strother had beans for breakfast on April 21, 1863, then in 2009, David_Strother tweets, "Had beans for breakfast".

The result have been surprising. You see similar threads between the historical figures. Many of them comment on the same weather, or the same orders coming down the line. You really get a feel for what is happening, even though your reading short 140 character-long tweets.

Anyway, if you'd like to follow along, please join us over at TwHistory.com. If you've never tweeted before, no worries; we've got all the instructions on the site.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Things I learned over the weekend...

We had a bit of a rough week last week, that included two trips to the ER, one trip to the doctor's office, and a two-day stay in the hospital. A couple of things I learned.

ER Doctors and Nurses are Incredible.

You have people come into your workspace who are in a panic. Some of them may be in a life or death situation. Some of them might be contagious. But it's all in a day's work. The doctors and nurses were professional, attentive, and all around great folks. They not only did the big things that many of us would find hard (stick needles in a toddler, give enemas, take stool samples), but they did it with class. I won't soon forget the tattooed, pierced, lab technician with a 4 inch goatee who talked to my two-year-old like he was the most important person in the room.

The Rotavirus Sucks.

While we're not sure my son had the rotavirus, he had all the same symptoms. Vomiting, diareah, dehydration, and low blood-sugar. The rotavirus kills half a million kids a year, usually because of dehydration. It makes me realize how lucky I am to live in a place where I can get folks to stick a needle in my son and get his body the fluids he needs.

I Can Still Party Like the Old Days

I sat up with my son on Saturday night. I'm more a night person, while my wife get's up early. I thought I'd be able to catch a few Zs here and there, but I was up until 6:45 on Sunday morning. She took over and I came home and slept for 4 hours. In the old days, I stayed up and partied. Now I stay up and watch a kid to make sure none of his tubes are falling out.

If You Put Off a Decision Long Enough, It Takes Care Of Itself

My wife and I were trying to decide what to do with our tax refund. Now we don't have to make that decision. It's spent.

Kids Are Worth It

Any way you cut it, kids are worth it.