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35th annual Young Writer’s Conference ‘inspires and encourages’

High school students across the Central Valley gathered at the Satellite Student Union Wednesday for the 35th annual Young Writer’s Conference.

The conference is put on by the Master of Fine Arts Program in Creative Writing and the Department of English.

Tanya Nichols, English professor and coordinator for the event, said the conference received more than 400 student submissions.

A total of 18 awards, along with cash prizes, were presented to high school writers.

Nichols said it’s a big deal for the students to have their writing recognized in the Spectrum Journal, which contains each winner’s works.

“I think it’s the best thing going for high school kids in the Central Valley,” Nichols said.

“I think every high school should send as many kids as they can here. It’s exciting, you can see how much the students love it. They leave here more in love with writing and really encouraged to pursue not only just writing but an education,” she said.

Nichols said the conference helps introduce students to Fresno State.

University High School freshman, Felicia Zhornitsky, winner of the Levine Prize Award, said she’s always loved writing.

“I just feel really excited and honored honestly because I got chosen and everyone here is really good,” Zhornitsky said.

“Creative Writing for me is giving me a voice to kind of speak out my opinions on things and to explain how I feel.”

The keynote speaker for this year’s conference was Elena Passarello, an essayist and professor of creative nonfiction writing at Oregon State University. She said she was happy and flattered to be the keynote speaker for this year’s conference.

“I just wanted to come in and sort of absorb the energy of young, excited, fresh ready writers,” Passarello said.

Passarello hopes students will be able to gain the confidence and inspiration they need to become successful writers.

“I hope that these moments when writers can get together and be a part of a community and talk to each other, inspire each other, challenge each other and riff off each other just gives them more ammo to come back to that chair and get started again and keep working,” she said.