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Saint Mary’s to host teen writing conference

| Friday, November 7, 2014

The Department of Education at Saint Mary’s College and the Michiana Writers’ Center are teaming up to host a teen writing conference Saturday called Get Inked on Saturday in the Carroll Auditorium of Madeleva Hall.

The conference, open to students in grades 8 to 12 and held on the Saint Mary’s campus, will run from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The event will feature keynote speaker Tracy Bilen, author of the young adult novel “What She Left Behind.”

Kathy Higgs-Coulthard, director of the Michiana Writers’ Center and education professor at Saint Mary’s, said the conference hopes to strengthen teens’ writing skills with engaging workshops and guest speakers.

“The Get Inked Teen Writing Conference is designed to provide teen writers with the same types of experiences adult writers get at their writing conferences,” Higgs-Coulthard said. “Our guest author, Tracy Bilen, is a huge draw.”

The teens attending the conference will not only get to hear Bilen speak, Higgs-Coulthard said, but will also be able to write with her in small group sessions.

Saint Mary’s junior Teresa Guerrero will co-teach some of the workshops.

“As an English major and Secondary Education minor, my involvement in the conference is to help teach a brief lesson about the workshops I am helping to conduct and help students with any[thing] they may need,” Guerrero said.

According to a list provided upon registration, students can choose from workshops covering a variety of topics including how to find inspiration, write body language, establish effective settings and write compact stories. Beyond traditional story themes, the conference will address additional topics relevant to teens through a college essay workshop.

Higgs-Coulthard said the biggest benefit for the attending students will be the opportunity to meet like-minded teens.

“The conference is geared toward students in grades 8-12 because those writers are usually functioning at a more sophisticated level of writing — both creatively and analytically — than younger students,” she said. “Those students are often able to adopt new strategies into their writing and consider suggested revisions.”

Guerrero said she is excited to work with the students who are willing to devote their Saturdays to writing.

“I was motivated to get involved with the conference because of the students who are coming,” she said. “Hopefully I can incorporate some of the ideas presented at the conference into my own teaching one day.”

The conference is also going to be helpful for writing teachers, Higgs-Coulthard said.

“Area teachers are invited to attend the morning session for free in order to learn more about teaching writing,” she said. “Mary Nicolini, the site director for our area’s National Writing Project, will be on hand to answer questions.”

Additionally, most presenters are not just teachers, but writers themselves, Higgs-Coulthard said. This gives the presenters an increased understanding of the struggles the teen writers are facing, she said, which will help make them more able to help the teens.

She said this is the second year for what she hopes will become an established annual conference.

“The conference exists to celebrate and support teen writers,” Higgs-Coulthard said. “While sporting events showcase athletes and other events like band concerts and theater plays showcase performers, there is nothing else around to showcase the talents of Michiana’s young writers.”

The Get Inked registration website advertises an autographed copy of Bilen’s novel, “What She Left Behind,” for each attendee. The $40 registration fee covers a full-day’s attendance and lunch.

“Saint Mary’s education students are invited to attend the morning session from 8-11:30 in Carroll Auditorium for free,” Higgs-Coulthard said, but must email her at higgscou@saintmarys.edu to RSVP.

“I hope that students will take away new ways to write,” Guerrero said. “I am still learning … just as these students are.”

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About Tabitha Ricketts

As of this summer (2013), I hail from Clarkston, Michigan. I am a junior in the Saint Mary's College dual-degree engineering program, pursuing a degree in English Writing from Saint Mary's and Computer Science from the University of Notre Dame. I have written for the Saint Mary's News department of the Observer since my freshman year, and began working for Viewpoint last spring.

Contact Tabitha