The title of this entry may seem rather combative or aggressive. And maybe it is. The WAR I'm helping to wage is toward apathy. Apathy about writing and reading. The majority of today's youth find themselves far too busy to enjoy either activity. These two skills compete against football, swimming, basketball, hockey, dance, gymnastics, vocal lessons, music lessons to name a few. Then there are the after-school jobs and whew! Today's youth are busy indeed. Any downtime they may have is gobbled up by social media. So how can we engage today's youth in the archaic forms of entertainment, writing and reading? By waging WAR.
Last year was our inaugural conference which saw about 120-130 teens in attendance. This year, with author Ellen Hopkins as our keynote speaker and intensified marketing efforts as well as opening the conference to the region, we hope to almost triple those initial numbers.
In addition to Hopkins, kids will be able to choose from 11 breakout sessions that range from screenwriting (by someone in the business) to speed reading tips to fiction writing to journalism. These professionals are giving up valuable time to invest in the lives of teens.
Does this conference make a difference? I recently sat down with the organizer of UND's Writers Conference, Crystal Alberts, who has been an invaluable help in planning our own conference which is always a day after hers. I mentioned to her our budget restraints which may make our 2nd annual our last annual. She told me we had to continue. The conference made a difference. Then she related a story about a freshman college student who saw a WAR for Lit flyer in Alberts' office. The freshman spied the poster and told Alberts she was going into English because of the WAR conference. Not a big deal? It is for someone who wasn't interested in college and had no direction.
So I'm getting ready for WAR along with a team of other organizers who are working hard to make sure this year isn't our last year. WAR does matter. Ask that college freshman. For her, i
t made all the difference.