What Mentoring Young Writers Can Do

When I was a kid, I rewrote stories from the Old Testament, giving them fierce female leads and setting them in modern times. I wrote free verse poetry in my room (usually centered heavily on graves and birds for some mystifying reason) along with short stories that rhymed and songs that often didn’t.

Needless to say, I wrote and I wrote and I wrote some more.

I would’ve given one of my pigtails for a writing workshop kinda like the one at which I spoke on Saturday, November 3. It was the Tampa Bay Area Youth Writer’s Conference, and the participants were all kiddos between 3rd grade and college.


Young Writers!

It was a little bit of magic mixed with lots of wiggling and flashes of brilliance.

I taught a workshop on creating a fantasy world, and gave students the opportunity to submit short stories from their worlds to me for the chance to be published right here on my website. In exchange for me talking about publishing, settings, and my life as a writer, I received something pretty spectacular in return: inspiration.

The young writers were thoughtful in their responses to my questions. They pushed boundaries, and asked the perfect question for any writing pursuit: “What if?”

What if, indeed.

What if these students crafted magical worlds with their imaginations when they left the conference? What if they sparked conversations that reflect the diverse world we all live in? What if these brave writers affected the landscape of what’s acceptable for publication?

What if their words changed the world?

What if?

That question makes me do what I do: pour into the lives of the youth so that one day, they can pour themselves into others.

Wanna help?

Parents, if you have a young writer in your house, send them to workshops like these and let their imaginations take flight. This was one of many writing conferences across the country they could pursue. Another big one besides the Tampa Bay Writers Conference is the Teen Author Bootcamp which happens each spring in Provo Utah. Nearly 1,000 teen writers gather together to boost their writing skills. Marie Lu, Brandon Sanderson, Jessica Day George, James Dashner, Ally Condie, Shannon Hale have all been speakers in the past!

Authors, if you’d like to participate in mentoring young writers, but can’t travel or show up in person, consider adding a craft post to the Teen Author Bootcamp forum here or contact Jo Schaffer (jo @ teenauthorbc dot com) to connect.

Students, if you’re interested in a writer’s workshop, but can’t make it to Tampa next fall or to Provo Utah in the spring, check out this list of writing workshops specifically for you. Maybe one will be near you and nothing says holiday presents like a class registration!


At the end of my workshop and publishing panel I was tired, but I was invigorated. And that’s the power of young people. They are so full of hope, it’s contagious. They inject optimism into their pursuits and every one of us adults could stand to get a little dosage of that, too.


We met Jerry Spinelli at the conference! Ahh!