Champlain College Young Writers’ Conference 2017


Alana Hoskins, writer

“It is a courageous act to put pen to paper,” Seth Jarvis says, looking around at each of the young writers in our workshop group. I write the quote down in my notebook; it is the last day of the Champlain College Young Writer’s Conference, and I’m trying to collect as many memorable messages as I can. The other writers around me share their best moments from the weekend- “I waltzed with a stranger,” admits one girl with a bright smile. (She’s talking about the contra dance, an event from the previous night.) I reveal that my favorite moment was my first time performing my own spoken word poetry for an audience, and that I also loved the craft sessions I attended. I don’t say it out loud, but really my favorite part of the weekend was the connections I made with the other writers. Everyone I met was amazingly unique and special to me in their own way, and yet there was a single thread that tied us all together- a love and passion for writing.

I didn’t hear about the Champlain College writing conference until I had already applied to another conference- and been rejected. I told our school’s writing coordinator about the outcome of my application, and she suggested that I apply for the Champlain conference. Less than a week before the deadline, I submitted my application and an excerpt from a short play I had written months before titled Deus ex Machina. I wasn’t expecting to be successful, but to my surprise, I received an email a few weeks later announcing that I had been accepted to the conference. So on the Thursday before Memorial Day weekend, I packed my bags and braved the four-hour drive up to Vermont. On the first night I was there, there was a small open mic; as I had never read any original work for an audience, I was understandably nervous. But I’ve never been known to back down from a new challenge, so I pushed down the anxiety and ended up performing multiple pieces of poetry that I had written before the conference. I was surprised at how natural it felt to me- and I later performed at multiple open mics throughout the weekend.

At the conference, there were adult chaperones and workshop leaders, as well as college students serving as peer mentors, who would join in leading workshops and other activities during the conference. Each workshop was led by an adult faculty member and included around fifteen students. My group focused on dramatic writing- some people had submitted a script for the stage or the screen; others had written poetry or prose that included intense conflict and dialogue. Together, we explored the techniques and patterns found in dramatic writing. By the end of the conference, my workshop group wrote a short skit together about an-all female version of the Bachelorette (titled the Gay Bachelorette, or Gachelorette for short.)

Apart from the workshops, there were also various craft sessions that conferencees could choose from. I attended one on Moth storytelling, one on the anatomy of short fiction, and a particularly wild one about the temporary quality of art, where we wrote small messages on sticky notes and left them around the campus. Some were poetic, others profane, but all of them were temporary and artistic expressions. A statue of the esteemed Samuel de Champlain was hilariously desecrated with notes proclaiming everything from small poems and doodles to memes, twitter handles, and the phrase “oh, for ****’s sake” placed delicately on the statue’s rear end. By the time parents arrived to pick up their writers on Sunday afternoon, they were met with dozens of colorful messages fluttering in the Vermont spring breeze.


During a period of free time, looking around at my peers, I realized that the word I’d use to describe the atmosphere was “bohemian.” In this sense, “bohemian” means something free, open, and liberating- the feeling of being surrounded with artistic minds exploding with ideas. Art was being shared and interpreted and created and shared again in a sweet metamorphic cycle. In fact, we were encouraged to draw inspiration from the work of our fellow poets and writers, and to create “shrapnel” in our writing- something that will stick in the reader’s head and inspire them in turn. The happiness of being in such an open place with so many creative people is unlike any other I’ve ever experienced, and I encourage everyone to try and find their niche for themselves. You don’t have to be a poet- you could be an athlete, a musician, a mathematician, a scientist- but whatever you are, surround yourself with like-minded people and maybe you’ll learn something new about your craft, about others, and about yourself.


(The Champlain College Young Writers’ Conference receives a 10/10 on Alana’s Pretentious Event Rating Scale. I will definitely be applying again next year.)