In continuation of our Ch1Con blog tour festivities, I had the honor of interviewing three members of the amazing team that makes this revolutionary convention possible each year. 🙂
Julia Byers is the founder and CEO of Chapter One Events, LLC, which focuses on running the Chapter One Young Writers Conference. Kira Budge is the associate online administrator and Ariel Kalati is one of the creative consultants. Various bits of info on these wondrous people can be found all across the web, such as on the Ch1Con website.
1. We’ve all entered a stage in our lives where we had to write (i.e. for school), but how old were you guys when you started writing for fun?
Julia Byers: My mom likes to tell stories about how I used to follow her around, making her write down my stories for me back when I was only a couple years old. But the first time I remember writing for fun was probably in first grade.
Kira Budge: I started writing for fun after a school project in first grade. I got into full-on novel writing in third grade.
Ariel Kalati: I started writing for fun about the same time I was able to write. We’d have small prompts for school like “write a story about a kite” and I wrote several pages of the adventures of a kite. One time in first grade I wrote my first fanfiction when my teacher told us to summarize Rainbow Fish and I heard the instructions as “write a new and improved version of Rainbow Fish.” I’ve always loved stories and as soon as I got the opportunity to write them down, I did.
2. What are some of the challenges you experienced as a group of teenagers trying to assemble a convention by and for young writers? Were you taken seriously by adults?
Julia Byers: Actually, trying to get “taken seriously by adults” was probably our biggest challenge. That and figuring out the legal aspects of it. (Ugh. Taxes.)
Kira Budge: For me, one of the beauties of the conference has been that I barely have to deal with adults at all, haha! Julia, in her duties, has had more interaction with adults, though. In my few interactions, I’ve found them generally welcoming. The biggest problem has been taxes and money stuff, which, again, Julia handles. It’s all just a party on my end!
Ariel Kalati: I’m not the most qualified to answer this, but there definitely were a lot of challenges regarding legal…and financial things. Creating a conference…is very difficult. There’s so much organization involved. And publicity is hard, because we need to spread the word everywhere…to make sure that people actually, you know, attend the conference. For my part, adults’ reactions mainly seemed to be that they were impressed. I think adults underestimate teenagers a lot of the time but when we actually accomplish something, they’re more surprised than they are condescending.
3. What is your most positive experience being involved with the Ch1Con so far? What is your favorite part about going to the convention?
Julia Byers: It’s hard to choose a single positive experience. Ch1Con as a whole has been an amazing ride so far. But my favorite part of the conference, beyond a doubt, is getting to hang out with so many hilarious, quirky, fun, intelligent, sweet, amazing young writers. It’s unlike anything else.
Kira Budge: More than anything, I love getting to spend time with other young writers. We have similar life experience and similar interests and that means we all click really well. We get to fangirl/boy about stuff together. It’s so much fun! There’s nothing like it. ❤
Ariel Kalati: My absolute favorite part of Ch1Con is spending time with other young writers. It’s so, so much fun. I’ve known most of the Ch1Con team through the Internet for years, but the new people I met through Ch1Con are great new friends…as well. I love hanging out with people who share my interests and passions for writing. And writers are generally hilarious, cool people.
4. Is there a particular author who inspires you as a writer?
Julia Byers: SO MANY AUTHORS. Right now, the author who is most inspiring me though is Elizabeth Wein. Her books endlessly amaze me.
Kira Budge: I have a whole long list of writing idols, but J.K. Rowling is the top top top.
Ariel Kalati: I should probably think of a more impressive answer to this, like, uh, Chaucer, or Walt Whitman, or like… James Joyce. I don’t know. I’m in college now…But the author who inspires me the most and who has inspired me since I was ten is J.K. Rowling. The way she created a whole world and gets the reader so emotionally involved and made such an impact with her writing is something I aspire to.
5. Have you thought about whether writing something you’d like to do for a living, or just for fun?
Julia Byers: While it’d be cool to write full-time someday, I’m good with sticking to doing it “just for fun.” (I put that in [quotes] because I definitely want to get published someday; I’d just prefer to have an official nine-to-five job on top of it to ensure the bills get paid and I have a company handling my health insurance for me and all that good stuff.)
Kira Budge: I definitely want to make a career out of it. YA lit is my true love and my passion and it’s all I’ve ever dreamed of doing. I’ve been fighting hard for it since I was eleven or twelve. It’s definitely an unstable and hard sort of thing to go into, so I’m not sure where my life’s going to go after college, but I will always be working towards that goal.
Ariel Kalati: I’d love to write for a living. Ideally I’d be a full time novelist rolling around in my pile of money, but since that is not a thing that happens in this universe, maybe I’ll be a freelance writer or journalist, or write in my spare time while doing another job.
6. Where do you see yourselves as writers in 10 years?
Julia Byers: Oh goodness. Um. Hopefully published. Hopefully writing about things and characters I love. I don’t know, though. The only definite is that I see myself still writing in ten years. Also, I’ll probably still be grousing endlessly about NaNoWriMo.
Kira Budge: I AM ON THE NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER LIST FOR CHILDREN/YA FICTION YASSSSSSSSS!!!! Haha, that’s where I’d like to be!
Ariel Kalati: I have no idea. I hope I’m at least published by then, haha! I’d still like to be involved in Ch1Con, as the creepy 28-year-old lurking around the conference room.
7. I’m curious … why is your logo a tomato?
Julia Byers: I honestly can’t remember the exact thought process that went into, “You know what would make a good logo that people will totally never confuse for an apple? A TOMATO.” But the gist of it was that we were constantly joking about throwing rotten tomatoes at each other (you know, like you do at a bad performer), so we decided to invert that. Our speakers, and attendees, and volunteers are all fantastic young writers destined for success, so they deserve the opposite of a rotten tomato. (Hence: a ripe one.)
8. Do you have any words of advice/inspiration for any young, aspiring writers who are reading this?
Julia Byers: Follow your own path. If you want to write towards publication while you’re young, go for it. Don’t listen to the people saying you can’t be good or successful while you’re young. You are capable of so much more than a lot of people would like you to believe. (But at the same time, don’t feel pressured to pursue publication if you don’t feel like you’re ready yet. You can still be an awesome teen writer without constantly pursuing the title of “author.”)
Kira Budge: If you love writing like I do, please don’t ever give up on it. It’s hard for any writer of any age to be successful just because the field is like that. Arts fields have a lot of uncertainty. The important thing is to always be persistent.
Ariel Kalati: There’s a lot of writing advice out there, and some of it is useful…for little writing things that help out. But there’s no magic formula to being a good writer, so don’t worry about finding it. You have the potential for amazing writing in you already. To unlock it, all you have to do is read as much as you can and write as much as you can. Also: people who make fun of the stuff you love are lame so don’t bother trying to impress them or waking up at 3 am to worry if they’re right. They’re not.
9. Lastly, as long as we’re talking about tomatoes, what is your favorite tomato-based food (i.e. pizza, lasagna, Lemony Snicket-style pasta puttanesca)?
Julia Byers: Pizza, by far. Don’t trust anyone who answers differently. Stouffer’s is paying them off.
Kira Budge: Probably the pizza. Pizza is good.
Ariel Kalati: There’s a lot of beautiful tomato-y foods out there but pizza will always be my favorite food. Although, tomato caprese is pretty good. And I always see pictures on Buzzfeed of fancy tomato pasta and think it would be great but I’m too lazy to make it. So, I guess pizza it is.