Last Saturday, I participated in the Metro Mobile Reading Council’s Young Authors’ Conference and Teen Writing Fair. Besides it giving me a chance to hang out in the library for seven hours, I had the pleasure of working alongside some fabulous book lovers as we inspired the next generation of creative talent. Teachers, librarians, as well as local authors and illustrators pulled their resources together to present an informative and motivational day.
Photo by Candice Conner
The morning began with the Young Authors’ Conference for third through sixth grade students. After a keynote speech from guest illustrator R. Gregory Christie (all the way from Georgia), the students split into groups for one of thirteen mini-workshops.
I was blessed to be able to run a “Visual Inspiration” workshop with fellow author and friend, Joyce Scarbrough. After sharing my own collection of maps, locations, and characters for my soon-to-be published novel and work-in-progress, I showed examples of visuals that make it into middle grade novels—using a few books as examples.
Then, our plucky group of students set to work scouring magazines and catalogs for their own story prompts. They clipped and glued gardens, building, pets, and people. Some even started character worksheets complete with backstories. It was awesome to be a part of, and better still, to see their excitement when they shared their work with other nearby workshop groups. (Yes, one lucky group had a crime scene as a story prompt. So cool!)
After a brief lunch break and room reset, we went back to work with the Teen Writing Fair. I acted as MC for the event, and started the meeting by announcing the winners of the Fourth Annual Tracy Hurley Memorial Writing Contest, which was hosted by Mobile Writers’ Guild. As the Young Author Committee Chair for MWG, I worked alongside Joyce Scarbrough and Candice Marley Conner to read and score the middle and high school entries. The finalists received cash prizes, journals/pens, and a hand written critique of their short stories.
Photo by Candice Conner
The seventh through twelve graders were then graced with fun and inspiring keynote addresses by Ms. Scarbrough and Mr. Christie. Following that, they students were free to meet and mingle among all ten guests at their tables, including authors, illustrators, poets, and biographers. The activity concluded with an open mic for the teens to share their stories and poems—a great way to close the event.
Whatever you do, be sure to take time to give of your talents to others. The experience has the ability to enrich all aspects of your life.