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Saint Mary’s to sponsor virtual Get Inked Teen Writing Conference

| Thursday, December 2, 2021

The Michiana Writers’ Center, a local community organization, will host its annual Get Inked Teen Writing Conference on Saturday. The annual conference, which is usually held in person at Saint Mary’s College, will be held online for a second time due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The conference is open to students from 7th to 12th grade and will feature breakout writing sessions, keynote speakers and four young adult (YA) authors.

Education professor and Get Inked founder Kathy Higgs discussed the benefits and drawbacks of hosting Get Inked online.

“It [has] been in person every year but last year and this year, and [the] online switch has been both a blessing and loss,” Higgs said. “With it being online, fewer students in the area are coming, but we have a national and international reach.”

Get Inked is meant to be an inclusive, safe space for teens to work on their writing with like-minded peers and published authors, Higgs said. She said she started the conference back when she first came to Saint Mary’s because she wanted to provide young writers with more resources than she had when growing up.

“When I was a teen writer, there weren’t opportunities like this,” Higgs said. “You know, there’s things for students who are in band or drama or sports, … but there really isn’t anything for young writers. I really wanted it to be what the teens who attend it wanted to be.“

As for the planning process, Higgs acknowledged the support of Campus and Community Events staff such as assistant director of external events and community relations Gabriella Maxwell and director Richard Baxter.

“I think we were blessed because we have Gabriella Maxwell at Saint Mary’s, and she really understands how to host events on Zoom,” Higgs said. “So, last year, she sat with me and really supported me through that process, and without her and Richard Baxter helping us to switch to Zoom last year, there’s no way we would have been able to host it last year.”

Higgs said she is excited to reach a larger audience by going virtual this year again, noting that it is one of the opportunities that hosting the event in person does not provide.

“It’s been a blessing in some regards to having it online because our capacities larger,” Higgs said.

However, she said a big setback from moving to a virtual conference is the lack of networking and creating community.

“At the end of the day, I always ask, ‘What do you want us to change? What do you want to do differently?’ And they always want more,” Higgs said. “At the end of the day, when we’re on campus, they don’t really want to leave. They want to stand around and talk to other writers their own age.”

Higgs emphasized the importance of finding community as a young writer and of seizing opportunities like Get Inked.

“Writing is such a solitary thing,” Higgs said. “It’s nice to have a community, a group of people like ourselves, people who are … interested in the same thing.”

Another benefit to going virtual Higgs mentioned is the access to authors and possible guest and keynote speakers.

“The other thing about it being online that has been a blessing is [last year] we were able to [bring] Chris Crutcher who is a rockstar writer,” Higgs said. “He donated his time and we never would have never been able to have him, but because it was COVID he donated his time and then we were also able to get other award-winning authors last year where in the past we’d only had one each year.”

Higgs expressed excitement for the opportunity to bring in more authors this year.

“So, we’re sticking with that [virtual] again this year and we have four authors again, which is just incredible,” Higgs said. “If we had to pay to fly all these people here and house them, it wouldn’t be possible, so that’s the blessing of the online thing.”

The conference will start with a writer’s marathon, which Higgs describes as “an opportunity for the teen writers and the adult writers who are presenting to gather together in a writing community.”

“Everybody writes to [a] prompt for a set period of time,” she said. “So, it’s very short, like 3 minutes. Everybody writes to that. And then we draw another prompt.”

Higgs describes this start of the conference as a warm-up. Following this section there will be a variety of breakout sessions, workshops and two keynote presentations.

The fall semester has been a busy time for Higgs, but she said the work she and other faculty, staff and students have put into the conference is all worth it.

“[It’s] such an emotional thing because I feel like — what’s the one thing I do that I can see the impact immediately? The students just need it,” Higgs said. “They just need to be in a room with other writers and they need the opportunity to be taken seriously as a writer.”

While there is a $70 dollar registration fee, Higgs notes that for a writing conference this is relatively low and there are many aid options for participants who may need assistance.

“So, my goal with it was to keep [the cost] as low as I possibly can, but still be able to bring in the author and be able to support the [conference],” Higgs said.

Higgs shared her excitement over the opportunity support young writers.

“This year we have somebody in New Zealand participating, which means that for her the conference will be starting … I think midnight, so she will be staying up all night for the conference,” Higgs said.

“I would say it’s totally worth it because of the motivation, students stay up all night to write, she added. “You know, those are the kind of people you want to make sure you’re supporting.”

Those interested in signing up for the conference can still do so by registering on the College’s Campus and Community Events website.

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