Welcome, young writers!

On March 5,  2016, Saint John's High School will host the 26th Annual Betty Curtis Worcester County Young Writers Conference!

Established over 25 years ago, the Worcester County Young Writers Conference, now sponsored by the Curtis family in honor of their mother Betty Curtis, has been nurturing aspiring writers from around the region for more than two decades.

Every spring, dozens of students, both boys and girls, grades 7 through 12, from all over New England, gather to engage in small group workshops led by local professional writers in the genres of poetry, fiction, playwriting, and creative nonfiction. The day culminates with student readings and a keynote address.

Letter from the Director

Frequently Asked Questions

List of 7 items.

  • Who is eligible to attend?

    Students grades 7-12 with an interest in creative writing. Each year, 80-100 students from over 40 schools from Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Connecticut participate.
  • When and where is the event?

    March 5, 2016, 9:00 – 5:00, St. John’s High School in Shrewsbury, MA
  • What happens during the day?

    Students meet in small and large groups to work on writing skills and share their work.
  • Who runs the writing workshops?

    Local writers who many years of experience publishing and mentoring.
  • What genres can students study?

    • Poetry
    • Fiction
    • Nonfiction
    • Playwriting
  • What is the cost of the event and what does it include?

    The cost includes breakfast, lunch, and writing materials.
    • The fee is $50
    • If you are interested in registering after the deadline of January 31, please contact Diane Mulligan directly at dmulligan@stjohnshigh.org. An additional late fee may apply.
  • What do I need to register?

    To register, you will need to provide
    • your name, 
    • your Email address (or a parent’s Email) and phone number
    • your school and grade, 
    • your English teacher’s name and Email address, 
    • and emergency contact information. 
    You can register by mail by downloading the registration form (above) or online.

WCYWC Mentors

List of 12 items.

  • Creative Nonfiction: Rodger Martin

    Rodger Martin’s third volume of poetry, The Battlefield Guide, (Hobblebush Books: 2010) uses the physical locations on the battlefields of the American Civil War to reflect upon America today. Small Press Review selected an earlier book, The Blue Moon Series, (Hobblebush Books:  2007) as one of its bi-monthly picks of the year.    He has been awarded an Appalachia award for poetry and a New Hampshire State Council on the Arts Fiction Fellowship.  Additionally he has received fellowships from The National Endowment for the Humanities to study T.S. Eliot and Thomas Hardy at Oxford University and John Milton at Duquesne University.   His work has been published in literary journals throughout the United States.   He and six colleagues have been translated in the book On the Monadnock: New Pastoral Poetry released in China in 2007.   He teaches journalism at Keene State College, and serves as one of the editors in The Granite State Poetry Series.
  • Creative Nonfiction: Russell McClintock

    Russell McClintock earned his Master’s degree from Providence College and his Doctorate from Clark University.  His graduate research won the prestigious Hay-Nicolay Dissertation Prize from the Abraham Lincoln Institute and the Abraham Lincoln Association, and his recent book, Lincoln and the Decision for War: The Northern Response to Secession, has not only been praised by scholars but was also a Main Selection of the History Book Club, whose readers voted it the best Civil War book of 2008.  He is currently working on a biography of Stephen Douglas, and he recently made four contributions to the Disunion series in The New York Times: http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/author/russell-mcclintock.  Dr. McClintock teaches history at St. John’s High School.
  • Fiction: Donald Unger

    Donald Unger is a lecturer in Writing Across the Curriculum and the Program in Writing and Humanistic Studies.  Scholarly interests include tracking changes in the representation of men, masculinity, and fatherhood in both language use and in popular culture, and questions of mutual assessment in the writing classroom. He has done business writing for Knowledge@Wharton and its affiliated sites.  His nonfiction work has appeared in The Boston Globe, The Philadelphia Inquirer, and The Village Voice, among other places.  He has done political commentary for NPR affiliates in Amherst, Massachusetts and Albany, New York.  His short fiction has been published in literary magazines in the US, Canada, and Europe. He is currently working on two nonfiction projects.
  • Fiction: Laina Pruett

    Laina Pruett graduated from Boston University with her MFA in Fiction in September 2011.  Her story "The Last Con" was published in the current (Spring 2012) issue of The Gettysburg Review.  She is a 2011 Robert Pinsky Global Fellow.  She also teaches 7th grade English Language Arts.
  • Fiction: Laurel Dile King

    Laurel Dile King is a writer, teacher, editor, and the founding publisher at Garland Press. She has led writing retreats in Maine, Rocky Neck Art Colony, and Tuscany, and conducted workshops for the Worcester Art Museum and the Worcester Public Library. Her awards for fiction include a first place prize for the Worcester Magazine Short Story Contest and a Massachusetts Cultural Council artist grant. She earned a B.A. in English from Pennsylvania State University and an M.F.A. in creative writing from Emerson College.
  • Fiction: Rob Huckins

    Rob Huckins teaches social studies in New Hampshire, including courses in Economics, AP Government & Politics, New Hampshire History, World History, Sociology, U.S. History, Business Law, Political Philosophy and Geography. Rob graduated from Keene State College (NH) with a degree in journalism and earned a master's degree in educational studies from Rivier College (NH) in 2006. In 2010, Rob published his first novel, American Dreamland (iUniverse Publishing), and is currently working on a second novel. Last year, he published a three-part series about four American combat veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan for The Keene Sentinel (Keene, NH). Rob also enjoys writing short stories, poetry, critical reviews of books, films and other works, as well as some drawing and painting. Rob lives in Milford, NH with his wife Wendy and two children Chelsea and Jackson and currently teaches at Hollis-Brookline High School (Hollis, NH).
  • Fiction: Stephanie Monahan

    Stephanie Monahan, a native of upstate New York, earned her degree in English Literature from Binghamton University. She contributes book reviews for The Pulse Magazine and Serendipity Greenwich. Her first book, 33 Valentines, a contemporary romantic comedy set in Boston, was released by Entangled Publishing in January, 2013. Her second novel, The Mean Girl Apologies, was published in June, 2014. Although she is a hardcore New York Giants fan, she loves living in Central Massachusetts.
  • Fiction: Tim Mudie

    Tim Mudie was born and raised in Worcester and attended St. John's, where he also participated in the Worcester County Young Writers’ Conference. After that, he got his Bachelor's degree in Creative Writing from Hamilton College and eventually his Masters in Writing and Publishing from Emerson College. He currently lives outside of Boston, where he works as an editorial assistant at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. His fiction has been published in This Mutant Life, Labyrinth Inhabitant, Wanderings Magazine, Everyday Weirdness, The Fifth Di..., and other magazines.
  • Playwriting: John Deedy

    John Deedy teaches at St. John’s.  He is a member of the English/Fine Arts department.  He earned his B.A. from Assumption College and his MA from Emerson College.
  • Poetry: Heather Macpherson

    Heather J. Macpherson is a poet and essayist. Her work has appeared in text, Pearl, Spillway, Blueline, The New Worcester Spy, Clare Literary, The Broken Plate, Two Hawks Quarterly and other fine publications. She has twice been features editor for The Worcester Review, and is the executive director at Damfino Press. She is a high school librarian, and lives in Central Massachusetts with her husband, writer Dave Macpherson, their son George, a dog named Fitzgibbons and dwarf hamster, Wolfie. You can find her at scribblehysteria.wordpress.com
  • Poetry: Jim Beschta

    Jim Beschta, born and raised in Wisconsin, moved to Massachusetts in 1970 to complete his M.A. in English at Assumption College.  He subsequently taught English and Creative Writing at Quabbin Regional High School where he directed student writing conferences for 20 years, published a state wide student poetry magazine and coached wrestling.  His poetry has won awards, been published in over 20 literary magazines, and been translated into Chinese.  He has published three poetry collections, the latest being North from Yaounde, published by the award winning Adastra Press in 2010. He currently teaches writing at the Worcester Art Museum.
  • Poetry: Susan Elizabeth Sweeney

    Susan Elizabeth Sweeney (who goes by Beth) earned an MFA in Poetry from Brown University and now teaches at the College of the Holy Cross.  She has won several awards, including the American Academy of Poets Prize; has published poems in Diner, The Worcester Review, the Journal of Irish Literature, and elsewhere; and has served as the president of the Worcester County Poetry Association, an editor of The Worcester Review, and a board member of Poetry Oasis.  Beth likes semicolons and composed her very first poem underneath a forsythia bush.  She is haunted by Mad Sweeney, a medieval Irish poet and madman who appears in many of her poems. Her collection of poems,  Hand Me Down, was published by Finishing Line Press in 2013.

Pictures from the 25th Annual WCYWC (2015)

25th Annual Worcester County Young Writers Conference

Registration Closed

The registration deadline for the 2016 Young Writers Conference has passed. If you have not signed up but are interested in attending, please contact conference director Diane Mulligan at dmulligan@stjohnshigh.org . We will accept late registrants if space permits.

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Conference Schedule

  • 8:30 – 9:00 Registration, Coffee, Donuts 
  • 9:00 – 9:05 Welcome 
  • 9:05 – 9:30 Mentor Readings 
  • 9:30 – 11:00 Small Group Session 1 
  • 11:05 – 11:30 Mentor Readings 
  • 11:30 – 12:00 Large Group Session
  • 12:00 – 12:45 Lunch 
  • 12:45 – 1:15 Mentor Readings 
  • 1:15 – 1:45 Large Group Session
  • 1:45 – 3:15 Small Group Session 2 
  • 3:15 – 4:00 Student Readings 
  • 4:00 – 5:00 Keynote speaker, Jasmine Mans, Q & A session

WCYWC Keynote Speakers

List of 4 items.

  • 2016: Jasmine Mans

    An author, performer, poet, teacher...yes to all of those titles, but more importantly Jasmine Mans is an artist...an artist who enjoys having various forums to express her thoughts, moods, opinions and a voice to speak out on behalf of others and the community around her. A recent graduate of the University of Wisconsin – Madison (2014), Jasmine received her BA in African-American Studies (Black Theory & Literature) and is the recipient of the Star Ledger – NJPAC; Arts Millennia; and (New York) Knicks Poetry Slam Scholarships and awards. However, Mans began stringing rhymes together as a middle-school student in her hometown of Newark, New Jersey. Those artistic skills were honed while attending the first performing arts high school in the nation, Newark Arts High School.


  • 2015: Adam Gottlieb

    Adam Gottlieb is a Poet, Singer/Songwriter, Teaching-Artist who advocates for the power of the spoken word. He was featured in the film Louder than a Bomb, a documentary described as a "celebration of American youth at their creative best." 

    "None of this prepares the viewer for the bomb that is Adam Gottlieb (from tony Northside College Prep), whose first reading at the 20-minute mark, of a poem celebrating poetry, announces a promising new American talent. It’s difficult to resist the comparison to Allen Ginsberg in Gottlieb’s nearly breathless recitation, his use of incantation and rhythmic attack, and the sense of an epic unfolding before our ears. His subsequent reading, on his Jewish roots in Chicago, is pitched in an entirely different register and suggests a novelistic sensibility." - Variety

  • 2014: Juliette Fay

    Author Juliette Fay was the keynote speaker at the 2014 Worcester County Young Writers Conference. Students from around the area gathered to work with writing professionals and share their own work in front of their peers. Student slam poets who competed at the Louder Than a Bomb poetry slam in Boston performed, and writing mentors spoke at a panel on publishing.

    Shelter Me, Juliette’s first published novel, was designated as one of the ten best works of fiction in 2009 by the Massachusetts Center for the Book, an affiliate of the Library of Congress. It was also named to the Indie Next List of the American Booksellers Association, was chosen as one of six novels for Target’s 2009 Bookmarked Club, and was a Good Housekeeping featured Book Pick. Her second novel, Deep Down True, was published in January 2011 by Viking Penguin, and was short-listed for the Women’s Fiction Award of the American Library Association. The Shortest Way Home, her third novel, was chosen as one of Library Journal‘s Top 5 BEST BOOKS of 2012: Women’s Fiction.

  • 2013: Matthew Quick

    Matthew Quick (aka Q) is the New York Times bestselling author of several novels, including THE SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK, which was made into an Academy Award-nominated film. His work has been translated into more than twenty languages and has received a PEN/Hemingway Award Honorable Mention, among other accolades. Q lives in Massachusetts with his wife, novelist/pianist Alicia Bessette.

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