Young Writers’ Conference debuts its first hybrid event

Aspiring writers from multiple high schools attended the hybrid event. (Wyatt Bible/The Collegian)

Keynote speaker and author Kristen Radtke spoke to aspiring writers in high schools across the Central Valley and Northern California at the 42nd Annual Young Writers’ Conference’s first hybrid event at the Satellite Student Union (SSU) on April 27.

The annual event brought students and professional authors together to read each other’s works and answer students’ questions regarding the creative writing process. The English department has been operating the event since 1980, and welcomes over 400 high school students and teachers to campus each year for a day of writing.

The event was an opportunity for young, aspiring authors and literature enthusiasts to interact with faculty members and professional writers, according to Beavers. (Wyatt Bible/The Collegian)

The event was canceled in 2020 due to COVID-19, but transitioned to a virtual format in 2021. This year was the first time the event adapted to a hybrid format, held both in-person and through Zoom. 

Faculty members and students shared initial excitement for an in-person conference, but there were challenges in preparation for the event, according to communications staff member Jefferson Beavers.

“This is the first year back in-person after a couple of years. We have to kind of rebuild that excitement,” Beavers said.

His doubts were gone once the event occurred and he saw the amount of students interacting and enjoying it. Other faculty who attended shared the same sentiments.

The English department’s graduate students taught creative writing workshops. (Wyatt Bible/The Collegian)

“[After] going virtual, I think it really made me aware of how much we can do in the future to prepare students for the conference. It made me aware of the possibilities that exist that we didn’t have before and certainly [that] I wouldn’t have thought of before,” Fresno State professor Tanya Nichols said. 

This year’s theme was creative nonfiction. 

Radtke, who is known for her graphic memoirs “Seek You: A Journey Through American Loneliness” and “Imagine Wanting Only This,” described her work process and answered students’ questions.

Students who were awarded for their work were able to read excerpts on stage, and later several students also received awards at the conference for work they submitted in correlation with the theme.  The Hmong-American award, the Chicanx Writer’s Association award and more were given to selected students. 

Following the event, various workshops for each high school were held on campus at multiple locations. 

Students broke into various workshops after the keynote speaker and awards presentation segments of the event. (Wyatt Bible/The Collegian)

The English department’s graduate students teach the creative writing workshops, while undergraduate editing and publishing students serve as the editorial board of the conference’s youth journal “Spectrum.” The journal celebrates the best work that has been submitted by participating schools.

Beavers said the event was an opportunity for young, aspiring authors and literature enthusiasts to interact with faculty members and professional writers, which can also inspire future writers to come back and teach at the event. 

Beavers reflected on his time at the Young Writers’ Conference as a student. He attended the event when he was a junior in high school.

“It was a transformational experience for me,” Beavers said. 

Beavers said the event provided an opportunity for campus faculty members to develop an event  that would allow students to embrace their love for writing, and said that the skills that come from participating in these events is something to hold onto for a lifetime.

“I want them to know that there is freedom and power in their creativity. I also want them to see that no matter what their major is, it’s something that they can carry with them throughout their life,” Nichols said. 

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