By Darrel Swann, Full-Time Faculty03.23.15
This year was the 25th annual Young Authors Conference, wonderfully organized by Putnam Northern Westchester BOCES and hosted, for the first time, by the Pace University Graduate Center. The conference allows high school students with a passion for writing to come from throughout Westchester, Putnam, Rockland, and Orange counties for workshops and camaraderie. Workshop topics range from college essay writing and poetry to creating the next great young-adult novel, and screenwriting.
This was my third year leading the screenwriting workshops on behalf of the Jacob Burns Film Center. It’s always a fantastic discussion with a really knowledgeable group of young people. Impressively this year, at least 90% of the students in the room had seen Back to the Future, a film we used in the workshop to teach lessons on writing with economy and character introduction. We watched clips from There Will Be Blood, Castaway, Juno, and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, discussed raising the stakes, avoiding bland dialogue, and satisfying but unexpected endings. We played a few short writing games, and shared resources like IMSDB (Internet Movie Script Database) and The Q&A, a podcast that focuses on screenwriters and their craft. We even found someone a long distance writing partner. It was jam-packed hour and a half! But the conference continues long after the workshops end. Select students come back in December for the Young Authors Master Class to have their work added to the annual conference anthology.