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Nurturing Young Writers

Teens turn a new chapter at Young Authors Academy.

People assume writing takes one solitary person working away at a manuscript to create a novel. In reality, it takes a village of supportive test readers, editors, and fellow writers to transform an idea into a novel. BYU’s summer writing camp, Young Authors Academy, helped aspiring writers recognize the importance of connecting with each other. Those lucky enough to attend Young Authors Academy experienced a week of fun events tailored to help attendees relish every moment they spent on campus. The camp provided high schoolers with a place where they could share their stories without fear of judgment, which improved their writing tremendously.

Young Authors Academy included a whirlwind of activities from writing classes to lectures from published authors such as Ruta Sepetys and J. Scott Savage. Group activities often included field games that revolved around popular books, such as a Triwizard Tournament on the final day of camp. Despite the sometimes-chaotic atmosphere, the kids made the most of every moment together.

Attendees stuck their heads into their writing notebooks every time the group stopped for longer than a minute. On the way to and from activities, attendees chatted with their counselors about the publishing process. These kids also held conversations about writing techniques during meals. When the counselors took a vote about whether the evening should be spent going to the creamery or working on worldbuilding, the kids almost always picked worldbuilding.

But the kids didn’t isolate themselves in their worlds of paper. They found ways to work with each other, asking one another to review a latest page or give feedback on a poem. They discussed how best to torture one’s main character and laughed over how ridiculous being a writer is. The kids felt more comfortable sharing their work with each other as the week went by.

The students also had an opportunity to practice collaborative writing as a way to learn how working with others can add vitality to a story. They learned that just about any idea can, if implemented carefully, be used as part of a story. For example, during a presentation with author J. Scott Savage, all the teens worked together to create a story as one group. Volunteers had to ask the audience yes or no questions about the audience’s novel, writing the growing plot down on the board. Crazy ideas flew around, and the kids accepted most of them (despite some heated comments about how a fictional government should work). The fun, interactive process left everyone smiling at the story about a dystopian girl who had to save the world from a corrupt government.

Having a camp where attendees could express their interests in a judgment-free environment allowed them to open up. They felt safe sharing their writing with each other—something that most authors will agree is scary at first. Young Authors Academy proved that getting help from others (while awkward and uncomfortable at first) leads to better stories and writing. Click here to learn more about next year’s Young Authors Academy.