Re-imagined: 2020 Young Authors’ Conference Connects

Posted On Tuesday May 12, 2020

It reads like a question for an aspiring young novelist – how do you connect more than 200 students with a group of successful authors during a global pandemic, when a typical conference is not possible?

“Moving to a virtual conference was not easy, and we were not sure anyone would attend,” said Deanna Brady, Principal at AE Perry Elementary, and Chair for the SD73 2020 Young Authors’ Conference. “However, the level of engagement and interaction we saw every day of the conference was amazing.”

About 150 students participated each day, attending Zoom-based workshops of their choice to learn about the craft of writing from authors and illustrators in early May. For example, Lee Edward Fodi, author of several books for children, including The Secret of Zoone, immersed grade 4 and 5 students in a workshop designing imagined characters like dragon smugglers, robot pirates and unicorn researchers. James McCann, author of young adult books of stories about martial arts and Greek histories, hosted a session about designing maps and characters for grades 6 and 7. Mike Carson, a local teacher and author, pointed out that core stories underlie all texts and then helped grades 8-12 students build a character following certain conventions.

“It turns out that putting authors in front of students so they can learn how process, ideas, character and story are woven together works great in this setting,” said Brady. “These sessions were so rich, encouraging and useful, and some of the questions and interactions between the students and authors were so engaging, it gave me goosebumps at one point.”

“It showed us that even in this time of physical distancing, it is possible to re-imagine our beloved traditions through collaboration, and take a leap to try something new,” said Tricia Persad, District Literacy Coordinator. “Even though it was a different kind of conference, we were still able to celebrate creative writing and provide students with a learning experience that they will remember.”

The Young Authors’ Conference has been an annual event in the district since 1978.

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