RONDA: Tell us a little bit about yourself.
JOSI: 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.
RONDA: You are the conference chairperson for an upcoming writers' conference for kids. Please tell us about the purpose of the conference.
JOSI: 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 youth, 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.
RONDA: 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) They are not the only kids that write, 2) Whatever goals or ambitions they might have in regard to becoming a writer are within reach, and 3) 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.
RONDA: 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 attendees can do now to best prepare themselves for a future in writing. We have a variety of classes which will appeal to both new and experienced writers.
RONDA: 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.
RONDA: 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.
RONDA: 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.
RONDA: 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 http://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.
RONDA: 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.
RONDA: 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.
RONDA: 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.
RONDA: Thank you very much, Josi. This sounds like an event teen writers won't want to miss.