Hello readers! It’s that time of the year again – I’m participating in the Ch1Con 2017 Blog Tour, an annual tour in preparation for this year’s conference, which brings original content from the Chapter One Young Writers Conference team to a number of fantastic, writing-related blogs. You’re on one of those right now!
If you haven’t heard of it, the Chapter One Young Writers Conference (Ch1Con) is a writing conference entirely by and for young writers. The team is composed of a number of high school, college, and early-twenty-something writers, who work to create a unique, inclusive experience for young attendees. The conference, with its subset focus on the young adult novel, brings teens together to hear from accomplished speakers their own age, participate in professional workshops, and celebrate the influence young writers have on the world.
The first Ch1Con took place in Chicago in 2012 with six teenagers in attendance in person and countless others attending via an online live stream. It was an experiment limited to members of the Scholastic’s Write It community and their friends: could a group of teenagers from across North America really get together and run their own conference? The answer soon became apparent: yes. So, eager to get others involved in the fun as well, the team took the conference public in 2014.
This year, Ch1Con is bigger and brighter than ever, with more opportunities, cooler giveaways, and a new roundup of fantastic speakers headlining the conference on Saturday, August 5th in downtown Chicago, Illinois. Registration is currently open on the Ch1Con website for writers ages eleven to twenty-three and at an early bird discounted price of $49.99. The speaker lineup is up on the website now, featuring Kody Keplinger, author of a bevy of YA hits including THE DUFF (now a major motion picture!), literary agent superstar Brent Taylor, more. (There’s also pizza, but more on that later….)
For my stop on the tour, I had the opportunity to interview not one, but three really awesome people who are involved with Ch1Con: Ariel Kalati (Associate Online Administrator), Emma Rose Ryan (Tumblr Expert), and Brett Jonas, Chief Creative Consultant. All three are terrific writers, and through Thursday night Ch1Con Twitter chats, we’ve become Twitter-friendly in the past few months. 🙂
Here’s how our conversation went:
Allison: How did each of you become a part of organizing Ch1Con?
Ariel: I basically got in through my amazing connections… My longtime Internet friend Julia was like, “I’m starting a writers’ conference” and I was like, “sounds fun, I’m in.”
Emma Rose: I found this very strange and heavily-moderated Scholastic Writing forum for teens…when I was 11. For some reason, the people on there took a liking to me, and when they decided to meet up with one another IRL, they decided to allow me to tag along.
Brett: I was just an attendee in 2015, though I was good friends with some of the team members. When they needed some help setting up, I volunteered, and the next thing I knew, I was offered a position on the team! Now I can’t imagine my life without it.
Allison: In six words, how would each of you describe the Chapter One Young Writers Conference?
Ariel: Community Online and Off. Plus Panera.
Emma Rose: The reason I am writing today.
Brett: A helpful haven for young writers.
Allison: I know Ch1Con is a writer’s convention/conference, but have attendees ever come in costume, like as a favorite book character? Is cosplay an aspect of conventions that you’d want at Ch1Con in the future?
Ariel: Oh my God no they have not done that, I guess my conception of Ch1Con is so far from a regular “con” that I never even thought of that… I will gladly give, like, a prize to anyone who shows up in cosplay.
Emma Rose: Lol! I mean, we give everyone shirts? So we almost kinda do that already. I think if we did cosplay, we would need to limit it to just cosplaying other writers. I call Shakespeare!
Brett: Nope, no one has ever come in costume! It could certainly be fun, so maybe that’s something we’ll encourage in future years.
And now for some generic writerly questions:
Ariel: I’m ””working”” on my project that’s dearest to my heart, my novel, The Wishmaker. It’s a fantasy YA novel with a plot that is irritatingly complicated. If I had to pick a theme song for the book… I have several playlists but I’ll narrow it down to one song… “In the Hand of the Night” by Mari Boine, which is not in English, and I don’t speak Sami, but the book partially takes place in Sami lands and this song captures the themes of coming to terms with nature’s darkness that I try to explore in the book, I think.
Emma Rose: I’m working on a short story about a college student that becomes so lonely and isolated that she gains the ability to see ghosts. I also just got done with some poetry and an outline for another ghost project. The college thing I’m doing has been stalling my progress something awful though. VERY excited for summer.
Brett: I’m currently writing a Pride and Prejudice retelling, which is a lot of fun! And… I don’t know. I don’t usually have theme songs. I’m going to be thinking about this now! LOL
Allison: How often would you say life experience influences what you write?
Ariel: Life influences everything; you can’t keep it out of your writing. So all the time.
Emma Rose:A lot. I used to think I wrote about characters that were TOTALLY DIFFERENT from me because they had blonde hair and fought monsters, but I was…fooling myself. I think my goal is always to capture real life then add monsters, honestly.
Brett: Pretty often, I think. My current MC is a homeschooled girl who’s going to community college for the first time, so that’s pulling directly from my own experiences as a homeschooled girl going to community college. In previous novels, I’ve written about goats, or having lots of siblings (I have eight), or running a family business. (Yes, I have an interesting life. LOL) So I guess it happens pretty often.
Allison: Is there a particular author who inspires you to write?
Ariel: Lots of authors inspire me… Lately Leigh Bardugo, because she’s super cool and I love Six of Crows. Neil Gaiman is also an eternal inspiration. Basically anyone with dreamy world-building, elaborate plots, and characters that capture your heart.
Emma Rose: Gail Carson Levine and Ann Lamott. They write THE BEST books for writers. Books that encourage readers to both work hard and be kind to themselves. Their work is like comfort food for my heart.
Brett: All of the authors I met before they were published. Every time I see one of them publish a new book, it inspires me to be more like them.
Allison: There are times when an established author we love publishes what isn’t their best work, but we easily forgive them for it. That seems pretty common, but have you ever loved a book but hated — no, strongly disliked — the author? How would you reconcile this? (I’m sorry, Ariel, but I had to ask.)
Ariel: Allison. Very funny. Yes, I have had that experience. I reconcile this by going to the lovely world of fandom to make headcanons and fan art and nice things like that. I would not recommend devoting your life to hatred of anyone or assuming they are in a conspiracy to steal your Parmesan cheese, or anything like that. Not fun.
Emma Rose: Hmmmmm…Well, I think I have writers I have strong, fundamental disagreements with. C.S. Lewis comes to mind. I’m also sure a lot of the older classics that I’ve enjoyed were written by total sexist racists. The jury is still out on whether or not Shakespeare was even REAL, much less a good person. That said, I don’t have any contemporary authors whose works I enjoy but whose character I find more bad than good.
Brett: I can’t say that I have!
Allison: Is your favorite genre to write in necessarily your favorite genre to read? Personally, I enjoy writing contemporary fiction about the world as we know it, but as a reader, I enjoy mysteries and anything that takes me traveling to imaginary realms and galaxies!
Ariel: In my case, yes, I like to read and write fantasy both. Although my writing sometimes delves into contemporary, I guess, but I still gotta throw magic in there. I guess I just don’t like a story much unless it has magic or it’s really funny.
Emma Rose: I’d say that I’m totally the same way. I love reading contemp romances (a la Eleanor and Park, Fangirl, Aristotle and Dante, etc.) but I cannot see myself writing anything like that because I KNOW I will accidentally add magic and monsters in there some way.
Brett: I enjoy both writing and reading YA Fantasy and YA contemps – or at least, YA contemps that double as rom-coms. This current WIP is my first attempt at writing a contemporary though!
Allison: Is writing something you want to do for a career, or just as a hobby? What do you guys think are some of the pros and cons of both?
Ariel: I would love to write full-time, and I would also love to win the lottery. I definitely want to work in the book world, though, either in publishing or marketing or education or something. Writing is never going to be a “hobby” for me because while it is fun and I can do it in my spare time, I consider it my life’s work and passion. But writing, like art in general, is a relevant part of many careers and of all our lives. The world is increasingly built on the written word. So I think having writing as a hobby, even if it isn’t a central part of your career, can be very important to build essential skills. Writing is also just super therapeutic for me. I guess there’s good parts to both, and the bad parts are mostly just money-related. Like a lot of bad things.
Emma Rose: I would love for it to be my career, but I also have other plans. I have strong intentions to get my Masters in Library Science and become either a youth librarian or a university librarian (writing and publishing ground-breaking scholarly work on children’s literature, obviously). I want the (relative) stability, and I LOVE what I have experience of library work. I also think that being around books and young people and new ideas will keep my spark alive and make me more likely to write. I think if I decided I was just going to be a writer or bust I would become constipated and uninspired and anxious. That’s not how I wanna be. It’s a personal choice though!
Brett: I would love to write as my part time job. I want to be a homeschooling mom someday, and I want to make my kids work in my family’s business, and I’d love to write alongside of that. I think there are definitely pros and cons to that option – one of the pros being that I can make my little sisters babysit my kids while I write. 😉
Allison: Since the second session of Camp NaNoWriMo is starting in a few months, do you have any writerly advice to young writers out there, especially those who are about to try writing a novel in thirty days’ time?
Ariel: NaNoWriMo is all about first drafts, so have fun with it! Lean in to the suffering! Be dramatic about your writerliness! Be pretentious, do whatever you want. Find the methods, whatever they are, that work for you, in terms of getting your story to transform from floaty stuff in your head to words on the paper. Even if they’re sucky words. Editing comes later. Get your words onto the paper. And if you can’t stand it and you hate it, take a break and go for a walk and eat a snack maybe. You’ll remember that you love writing and love your story. And also, if you don’t hit your goal in a month, that’s totally cool- if you wrote anything at all, that’s more words than you had at the start of the month.
Emma Rose: Sit down. Every day. Write. Write crap. Like, utter crap. I don’t care if you make your goal, but I DO care that you sit down at least once a day and put words on paper. Because that’s the only way you’re ever going to learn.
Brett: Don’t edit, just write. Jot down anything you want to fix in a separate document, then get back to writing. NaNo is all about getting the words out–you can’t fix a blank page. And remember, NaNo doesn’t work for everyone. Don’t feel badly if you’re not the kind of person who can fast-draft!
Returning to the subject of Ch1Con:
Emma Rose: Ohhhh yes! We have our mentorship program in the fall, our short-story and poetry contests happening NOW and our monthly chats! We are also always available and up for a chat on #Ch1Con. Feel free to add @Ch1Con to any bookish discussion to get us involved.
Brett: We do! We have monthly Twitter chats and write-ins, which is where we gather in a chat room and talk about writing and pretend that we’re actually writing like we’re supposed to. It’s pretty great! You can check out chapteroneconference.com/news for the latest info on our monthly events.
More about the Con:
Between the awesome presentations and workshops, attendees will have the chance to participate in literary trivia games and giveaways, with prizes including professional critiques, signed books, and ARCs. There will also be an author panel open to any and all questions at the end of the conference, followed by a book and swag signing by participating speakers. During downtime, all participants are free to explore Chicago, relax at the conference’s beautiful partner hotel in the nearby suburb of Rosemont (where the annual Friday night pizza party will be hosted), and network with each other, establishing the sort of vital connections that can make careers and create lifelong friendships.
The 2017 conference will be held at a brand new venue, the SPACE by Doejo event center, with sessions running from 9:45 AM to 4:30 PM on Saturday the 5th of August. Tickets for transportation and room reservations can be purchased online with links on the conference’s Travel page. Early bird registration is currently open at this link with adult registration for those 18+ and youth registration (with parental/guardian consent) for those under 18.
So, if you’re a writer between the ages of eleven and twenty-three and you’re interested in this opportunity, register ASAP! With a growing number of young writers discovering the magic of this event, seats are sure to sell out fast, and the early bird price ends June 1st. For more information and to join the Ch1Con community online, check out these links:
Website: Chapter One Young Writers Conference
YouTube: Chapter One Young Writers Conference
Facebook: Chapter One Young Writers Conference
And, of course, you can follow the rest of the Ch1Con 2017 Blog Tour at: www.chapteroneconference.com
The Chapter One Young Writers Conference. Every story needs a beginning. This is ours.