by Bethany Wood, Age 15, United Kingdom
Earlier this year, I was honoured to be able to attend the 2014 Junior Authors Writers Conference for its first year in the UK, set amidst the beautiful Surrey Hills. Hosted and organized by Laura Michelle Thomas, the creator of Laura Thomas Communications, I learned and fed off the workshop presenters’ knowledge, tips and experience in the writing industry. There were also door prizes throughout the day, the opportunity to buy and have your books signed, and make new friends who share the same dream. I had the opportunity to ask Ms. Thomas some questions about her conferences.
What is the aim of your conferences?
I wanted to create a professional-feeling, youth-friendly conference for young writers with speakers who are skilled at working with youth and an environment in which the voices of young writers do not play second fiddle to those of adult writers.
What will we take away from one of your conferences?
Listening to the young writers who have attended in the past, they get three main things out of our conferences: affirmation that writing is worthwhile, new friends and writing buddies, and knowledge about the writing process and breaking into print.
What do the workshops teach us that we don’t already learn in school?
The workshops are taught by working authors, editors or publishers. English teachers are great readers and often good writers too, but it’s not how they earn their living. The best way to become an apprentice in a craft like creative writing is to learn from people who are actually working in the field and getting paid for it. They know just what it takes to make it.
I think the most important thing young writers learn at our conferences that they will not learn in school is that the audience (your potential readers) and the paying market (booksellers) have to be factored in to each piece you write. Good enough to get an “A” in English is not necessarily “good enough” to sell your piece for cash. When money is on the table, the bar is raised significantly.
How do you cater to such a large age range of children?
Age does not really matter. Each young writer comes in with different interests, challenges, skill sets, and worries. Each workshop will provide something for everyone according to his or her needs.
Is it necessary to come to more than one of your conferences?
We don’t repeat workshops, so every year each conference will be different. The overall format is the same, though, which provides a sense of familiarity for returning writers. This is similar to adult writers’ conferences which are held annually. The format stays the same, but the speakers change. Coming back year after year is a great way to network.
As a professional writer, have you learned anything from any of the conferences? If so, what was the most useful?
Each workshop presenter seems to leave me with some new piece of information, a tip or a resource which I can weave into my daily work. I love that. I also love that I get to choose the presenters. That’s one of the best perks a manager gets.
Bethany Wood is a 15 year old writer from England. She is a bookaholic and wants to extend her love of reading into writing books herself.