Bellingham conference designed for teen writers


Teens in Whatcom County now have their own writing conference.

Local writers already have beaucoup opportunities to hone their writing, from programs at Western Washington University, Whatcom Community College and Red Wheelbarrow Writers, to writing groups at Village Books, workshops by Whatcom Poetry Series, the Chuckanut Writing Conference, which starts its third annual two-day run in June - and I'm sure I've leaving some out.

New to the list is a one-day conference designed specifically for writers age 13 to 18.

The inaugural "Write On 2013: Teen Writing Conference" will run from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Sunday, June 23, with such conference features as a keynote speaker, breakout groups with professionals and a wrap-up session at day's end.

The conference is a joint effort by Village Books, which will host the event along with Fairhaven Village Inn, and by Whatcom Young Writers, a nonprofit group.

Stephanie Dethlefs, a former teacher, started Whatcom Young Writers four years ago as a program at Bellingham Public Library with a focus on creative writing by young people.

"When I started the drop-in clubs at the library there was quite a bit of interest in it," she said. "I knew how valuable a program that supports writers could be for the schools."

As older youths showed interest, too, Dethlefs added volunteer helpers and expanded the program, now with after-school writing clubs at Whatcom Middle School, the Fairhaven library branch, and at Village Books most Friday nights.

Dethlefs, who teaches literacy courses for the elementary education department at Western, saw that many young people take their writing seriously.

"They see themselves as people who will continue to write for their whole lives," she said. "It's how they define themselves."

Given that, she said, it made sense to give them the chance to meet and learn from professional writers in a conference setting, just like serious adult writers do.

Nine writers will lead breakout sessions about fiction writing, poetry, and the craft of writing in general. The nine leaders are poets Matthew Brouwer and Ryler Dustin, science fiction writer Nick James, artist and comics teacher James Eisenhart, fantasy novelist Royce Buckingham, author and writing coach Cami Ostman, Fairhaven Middle School teacher Joel Gillman, fantasy writer Cory Skerry, and Oona Sherman, education director at the Upfront Theater.

"We've got such a rich writing community in Bellingham," Dethlefs said.

Teens who attend will have to choose which three breakout sessions to attend.

"They can create the experience that they want out of the conference," Dethlefs said.

Just like at conferences for older writers.


What: Write On 2013: Teen Writing Conference, hosted by Whatcom Young Writers and Village Books.

When: 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Sunday, June 23.

Where: Village Books, 1200 11th St., and Fairhaven Village Inn, 1200 10th St.

Cost: $45 general, $37 for registrations received before June 1. Reduced registration available for current Whatcom Young Writers participants until June 22.

Details: or

Reach Dean Kahn at 360-715-2291 or

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