Young writers made to feel less alone

“There’s never going to be an America’s Next Top Writer. What would they show, a back sitting at a computer?” said Laura Thomas, a Vancouver-based communications specialist, fostering the development of young writers.

“It’s not a glamourous career, so I want to give these kids support and affirmation that writing is a real career and is a real art form.”

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To that end, she has organized the first Junior Authors Writers Conference this Saturday, Oct. 19 at Richmond’s Sandman Signature Hotel and Resort.

At 8:30 a.m., about 100 excited kids between the ages of nine and 21 will file through the doors, eager to learn some writing tips and get inspired by like-minded youth.

The conference brings together young writers from across the Lower Mainland. Aspiring writers will have the chance to hear professionals in the field talk and participate in writing workshops.

“They can sit at the table with other crazy kids who love to write and know they aren’t different,” said Thomas, who has conducted numerous writing camps for youth around the world. “Writers tend to be shy and uncomfortable with sharing their work. Hopefully, here, they can bounce some ideas off each other.”

Thomas saw the need for such a conference when she noticed that although other writing events include youth components, it’s not the same as having a whole day dedicated to them. As young writers get older, particularly those between the ages of 18 and 21, it becomes difficult to compete with other adult writers, according to Thomas. They still need additional support.

“It can be especially tough if the kids don’t come from a literary family, there’s not a lot of community support either,” she said. “We’ll have a half hour session for parents towards the end, so they can learn some tips for supporting a young writer.”

The conference will also show the attendees the importance of writing in general, whether they decide to make a career out of it or use their skills for other career choices.

Thomas highlights the focus on the online world as a shift that makes writers all the more important in every day jobs.

“There haven’t been too many other times in history where it’s so important to be a writer,” she said. “All companies need good writers, whether it’s updating the web content, writing sales copy. They need staff writers. And working on writing also means working on communication skills, which is the bedrock of a society. It has a pay-off to how that child develops and becomes a leader.”

Tickets for the conference are $89, with a $79 sibling rate. They include six workshops, a goody bag, door prizes, a morning and afternoon snack and lunch.

Scholarships for families who couldn’t afford admission were available, but the deadline was Sept. 30. Participants also get to take part in the launch of Thomas’ new book, Polly Wants to Be a Writer: The Junior Authors Guide to Writing and Getting Published. The conference runs until 6 p.m. For more information, or to buy tickets, visit laurathomascommunications.com/conference.

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