Don’t be surprised when you start to see more and more bestselling authors coming out of San Diego.
Over the past five years, the CCA Writers’ Conference – the only free writers’ conference for high school students in the country – has continued to grow and encourage aspiring young writers, drawing in hundreds of teens from more than 20 area high schools and attracting top names in publishing.
On Saturday, March 11, Canyon Crest Academy’s Creative Writing Club will present the sixth annual conference, and it looks to be the biggest one yet.
Twenty-two authors will lead workshops in a variety of subjects from screenwriting to poetry to comics and graphic novels. Students will have the opportunity to participate in six different sessions with a choice of four workshops per session.
The day will begin with a keynote address by Mary E. Pearson, author of several award-winning books for teens, including the bestselling Jenna Fox Chronicles.
“The conference has gained recognition by both authors and publishers, and authors have actually started to reach out to us, requesting to speak, which is really great,” said Julia Camilleri, president of the CCA Creative Writing Club. “This year, we have the largest number of New York Times bestselling authors presenting, and attendance is soaring!”
Camilleri, a senior at CCA, joined the Creative Writing Club during her freshman year, and took over after former president and conference founder, Devyn Krevat, graduated.
“As a sophomore, Julia stepped into the role of president with poise and competence,” said Kathy Krevat, author of the bestselling Chocolate Covered Mystery series and conference consultant. “She balanced it all with a heavy academic workload and other extracurricular activities.”
In fact, Camilleri not only founded an after-school writing club for middle school students but she also piloted a creative writing program for at-risk teens in partnership with Words Alive, a local nonprofit organization dedicated to literacy.
In addition, she is working on her Gold Award, the highest award that can be achieved in Girl Scouts.
Although all of these projects revolve around writing, Camilleri plans to pursue a pre-med course of study in college, with the goal of becoming a pediatrician.
“Writing is a hobby and de-stressing activity that I enjoy on the side,” she explained. “It has and will continue to be a creative outlet for me and an important tool in my future endeavors.”
Camilleri believes that any high school student considering a career in writing should take advantage of this conference.
“It’s a great learning opportunity, and students even have the chance to meet a literary agent in a workshop about getting published,” she said. “Every author has a unique experience to share about the process of becoming successful. Plus, there’s something for everyone, whether you’re interested in journalism, creative writing, poetry, graphic novels – pretty much any genre related to writing.”
Krevat agrees. “As an author myself, I think there are three valuable takeaways from this conference. 1) Students learn how to navigate the publishing industry, which is more complex than they realized. 2) They see that the speakers were once just like them, which is empowering. 3) They get to be around people who love what they love. So many attendees said they ‘found their tribe’ at this conference.”
According to Camilleri, fantasy, action and horror tend to be the most popular genres among attendees. Top workshops have been Grand World Building in Fantasy, Writing Great Action Scenes, and College Essay Writing, and all are back by popular demand.
This year’s conference is bittersweet for Camilleri because it will be her last.
“I love the excitement around the day, and the buzz you can feel during the whole event,” she said. “We start registration at 8 a.m. and there are always students turning up earlier because they’re so excited.”
Camilleri remembers dozens of moments that stand out to her from past conferences.
“One image that will always stay with me is of a student who had brought all his savings to the conference,” she said. “He was walking back to his car and his hands were piled high with 30 books he purchased and had signed by the authors at the conference. He looked so happy!”
This year, Camilleri is looking forward to meeting keynote speaker Mary E. Pearson, whose book, The Adoration of Jenna Fox, will soon be heading to the big screen. She’s also excited about presenting an award to spoken word poet Viet Mai, who will close the conference with an inspirational performance.
“Last year, we initiated a Jonathan Maberry Inspiring Teens Award to acknowledge the author’s support of the conference and all that he does to promote teen literacy in San Diego,” said Camilleri. “It was such an honor to be able to present the award to him, and I can’t wait to present it to Viet Mai this year.”
Camilleri is grateful to have worked with all the authors who’ve donated their time to appear at the conference, Krevat, her fellow Creative Writing Club students and the CCA Administration, especially Brett Killeen, Milan Perisic and the CCA ASB.
Although Camilleri will soon be passing the baton to the new club president, you can bet she will be as busy as ever.
“Once the conference is over, I am going to be focusing my time on enjoying my last few months in high school,” she laughed. “Oh, and deciding where I’ll be going to college!”
The 6th Annual CCA Writers’ Conference will take place on Saturday, March 11 from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at Canyon Crest Academy, Proscenium and Media Center, 5951 Village Center Loop Road, San Diego. The event is for high school students only. Admission is free and includes programs, handouts, paper, pens and a free lunch from Chipotle Carmel Valley. Preregistration is required.
For a donation of $50 or more, book clubs, organizations and individuals can sponsor a speaker and be acknowledged in the conference program.
For more information or to make a donation, visit ccawritersconference2017.weebly.com