The 2023 Betty Curtis Worcester County Young Writers Conference will be held at Saint John's on March 25. 

Registration will begin in January. Please join our mailing list to be notified when conference information and registration details. 

The information on this page reflects last year's event. Information for 2023 will be updated in December 2022.
Workshop Offerings

Fiction: Writing Fantasy Fiction
Mentor: Chuck Abdella

There are benefits to creating your own world in which to write, rather than our own boring and familiar one.  Let's discuss Wizards, Elves, Dwarves, Ogres, mythical beasts, and the ways you can use magic in your writing to hold up a mirror to modern themes while setting your stories in a medieval-type world.

Fiction: What Makes a Character?
Mentor: Tim Mudie
 
In this workshop, we will come up with characters by listing various archetypes (teacher, adventurer, etc.), locations, personality traits, and wants. We will then randomly connect those to create characters and write brief stories. After that, we will choose a different thing for our character to want and write a separate story, seeing how a character's motivation is the driving force in fiction.

Fiction: Worldbuilding 101
Mentor: Tim Mudie

We will come up with an SFF twist to our world (e.g., dragons are real; aliens came to Earth 50 years ago) and extrapolate as a group for how the world would be changed in ways both large and small. We will then each write a story in that world, focused on the smaller daily-life details, working in the worldbuilding aspects organically.
 
Poetry: Lend Me Your Poem
Mentor: Beth Sweeney

In this workshop, students will not only share poems they have just written but will also use them to inspire and construct still more poems.  You’ll have a chance to experiment with a range of different forms of poetic adaptation and collaboration, including the exquisite corpse, the golden shovel, the call and response, the switch, and the tapestry.  Writing poems off of, against, for, and with poems by other writers is a fun way to stretch your mind and develop new ways of working with words.

Poetry: As If
Mentor: Beth Sweeney

This workshop will begin with games and exercises designed to teach students how to create fresh, startling, and weirdly appropriate metaphors.  The many metaphors we produce together will provide the seeds for the individual poems we write.  You’ll learn how to use a metaphor to organize an entire poem, how to develop it with word choice and sensory imagery, how to extend it in surprising ways, and how to wrap it up with an unexpectedly meaningful ending.


Journalism: The Writers Conference Gazette
Mentor: Rodger Martin

See it, write it, publish it—the 8-hour sprint that produces The Writers Conference Gazette.  During the workshops, participants will interview, record, and photograph happenings at the Betty Curtis Worcester County Young Writers Conference and by day's end have a complete, published newspaper to share with all participants.

Nonfiction: You Can Talk to a Rocket Scientist - The Importance of Primary Source Interviews
Mentor: Kathryn Hulick 

Primary sources bring life to your writing, and they're essential if you're a journalist or nonfiction writer. But why are they so important? How do they differ from regular old research? For my new book for teens, WELCOME TO THE FUTURE, I spoke with 55 experts! Using some of these interviews as examples, Hulick will walk you through the reasons for doing interviews as well as how to conduct one. You'll learn how to prepare, what types of questions to ask, and why it’s important to ask a question even when you think you already know the answer. Come ready to practice your interview skills with other attendees in this hands-on workshop. Although this presentation is geared towards students interested in nonfiction writing and journalism, fiction writers may also find it useful to conduct interviews.
 
Nonfiction: Science writing that sparks and sizzles
Mentor: Kathryn Hulick 

A story about chemistry or physics may cover some tricky material. But it doesn't have to be boring. Kathryn Hulick has been writing about tough science topics for kids and teens for over a decade. She has learned some tricks that help communicate complicated ideas without losing anyone's attention. Many of the same techniques that bring life to fiction writing can also liven up nonfiction, for example bringing in all five senses or using dialogue. Numbers can be presented in ways that make them easier to grasp and more fun (like measuring something in elephants instead of kilograms). In this interactive workshop, participants will work to turn a boring paragraph of text into something that sparks and sizzles,
without losing any important information.

Mixed Genre: Creating Your Own Publication

Join writer, editor, and scholar Heather Macpherson to learn what is involved in launching your own publication to share your work and the work of other talented writers.
 
 
About Our Mentors

Chuck Abdella

Chuck Abdella is a History teacher at St. John’s High School. His writing has appeared in the B.C. Stylus, Worcester Magazine, and The Boston Globe. Chuck’s most recent novel, a YA fantasy tale, THE SUN AND THE MOON, was published in 2021. His adult fantasy series spans four books: THE OUTCASTS, THE DARKEST FORESTS, WHISPERS OF SPRING, and A FLICKER OF HOPE. 

Tim Mudie

Timothy Mudie is a speculative fiction writer and an editor of all sorts of genres. His fiction has appeared in various magazines, anthologies, and podcasts, including Lightspeed, Escape Pod, Wastelands: The New Apocalypse, and Interzone. He lives outside of Boston with his wife and son. Find him online at timothymudie.com. 

Beth Sweeney

Susan Elizabeth Sweeney’s poems have appeared in Diner, The Worcester Review, The Journal of Irish Literature, and elsewhere, and have won an Academy of Poets Prize, the Frank O’Hara Poetry Prize, and other awards.  Beth has served as president of the Worcester County Poetry Association and as coordinator of the Creative Writing Program at the College of the Holy Cross, where she is now the Murray Professor of Arts and Humanities.  In May 2019, she received the Distinguished Faculty Scholar Award from Holy Cross, only the second time it has ever been granted.  Beth’s chapbook, Hand Me Down (Finishing Line Press, 2013), was a semifinalist in the 2012 New Women’s Voices Competition.  She is now writing a series of poems about her namesake, Mad Sweeney—a king, poet, and madman in Irish folklore—and his wife.

Rodger Martin

Rodger Martin is the author of four books of poetry.  His latest book, For All The Tea in Zhōngguó  was released in 2019.  It follows The Battlefield Guide, (Hobblebush Books: 2010, 2013) and the selection of The Blue Moon Series, (Hobblebush Books:  2007)  by Small Press Review which was one of its bi-monthly picks of the year. Rodger is also on the faculty at Keene State College, where he teaches and is the advisor to the student newspaper.

Kathryn Hulick 

Kathryn Hulick is the author of two books for teens, Welcome to the Future: Robot Friends, Fusion Energy, Pet Dinosaurs, and More (Quarto, 2021), about how technology could change the world in the future, and Strange But True: 10 of the World's Greatest Mysteries Explained (Quarto, 2019), about the science and history of ghosts, aliens, and other mysterious things. As a freelance science writer, she regularly contributes to Science News for Students, Muse magazine, and Front Vision, a Chinese-language science magazine for young people. She has also published numerous educational books for kids and teens on topics such as video games, artificial intelligence, energy technology and dinosaurs. She co-directed the New England SCBWI conference in 2011 and 2012 and presented workshops in 2014 and 2018. Hulick’s favorite part of writing about science is getting to speak with researchers in many different fields. Once, she spoke with an expert on parallel universes while he was shoveling snow from his driveway. Another time, she called a biologist who was out in the field in Africa, watching a herd of elephants. In addition to writing, she enjoys hiking, gardening, painting, and reading. Hulick lives in Massachusetts with her husband, son, and dog. Her website is http://kathrynhulick.com/ You can follow her on Twitter @khulick or on Instagram or TikTok @kathryn_hulick


Heather Macpherson

Heather J. Macpherson writes from New England. Her work has appeared in The Carolina Quarterly, Bennington Review, 580Split, Dr. T.J. Eckleberg Review, Niche, The Heron Tree, Parlour, The Broken Plate, The Worcester Review, The Best American Poetry Blog, OVS, Blueline, Spillway, Pearl and other fine publications. She is a full-time instructor in the English Department at Worcester State University.




WCYWC Keynote Speakers

List of 7 items.

  • 2019: Andy and Veronica Fish

    This husband-and-wife team of graphic artists has been offering their unique and popular workshops for over 10 years to students of all ages. Andy Fish is a noted comic book artist, illustrator and painter—his work has been published all over the world and exhibited in galleries as far away as Sydney, Australia. His most recent graphic novel is Dracula’s Army: The Dead Travel Fast, an adaption of Dracula brings to light storylines that only lurked in the shadows of the original. Veronica Fish’s paintings have been shown in galleries around the world, and she's also worked on character design, storyboarding for film and TV, apparel design, and editorial illustration. Veronica recently illustrated a comic entitled Blackwood, a supernatural fantasy about a magical murder in a sorcery school. As visual storytellers who often work with writers to develop comics and graphic novels, Andy and Veronica bring a fresh, new perspective to our conference. The keynote address will begin at 4:00 and is free and open to the public.
  • 2018: Terry Farish

    Terry Farish is a writer with a passion for following the stories of people from many cultures who come as immigrants or refugees to the U.S. The Good Braider is her free verse novel for young adults and adults about 17-year old Viola and her family’s journey from war-torn Sudan, to Cairo, and finally to Portland, Maine.  She wrote The Good Braider after travel to Kakuma Refugee Camp on the border of Kenya and South Sudan and years of collecting oral histories among southern Sudanese families in Portland. The novel was selected as a Best Book of the Year by the American Library Association, Bank Street College of Education, and School Library Journal.  Her picture books include The Cat Who Liked Potato Soup, illus. by Barry Root and The Alleyway set in Lawrence, MA.  The Alleyway, about a small boy whose brother has been deployed in the US Army, is in production and will be illustrated by Oliver Dominquez. In 2015 her novel, Either the Beginning or the End of the World, will be published by Carolrhoda Books. Through the New Hampshire Humanities Council, Terry leads literacy programs with refugee and immigrant parents, and she also teaches writing at Manchester (NH) Community College. You can visit her site at http://terryfarish.com.
  • 2017: Regie Gibson

    Literary Performer and educator, Regie Gibson, received his MFA from New England College. He’s lectured and performed in the U.S., Cuba and Europe. Representing the U.S., Regie competed for and received the Absolute Poetry Award in Monfalcone, Italy. Himself and his work appear in “love jones”: a feature-film based on events in his life. He is a former National Poetry Slam Champion, has featured on HBO’s Def Poetry Jam, WBUR’s On Point, Radio Boston, and various other NPR programs. Regie has performed at TED X Boston, Ted X Bedford and TED X Natick, and has been nominated for a Boston Emmy. He’s received the Walker Scholarship for Poetry from the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center and a YMCA Writer’s Fellowship. He’s been published in Poetry Magazine, Harvard’s Divinity Magazine, and The Iowa Review, among others. His volume of poems, “Storms Beneath the Skin”, has received the Golden Pen Award. He has received both an MCC Poetry Award and a Lexington Education Foundation Grant. Regie has performed with and composed texts for The Boston City Singers, The Mystic Chorale and Boston’s Handel+Haydn Society. He performs regularly with Atlas Soul: a world-music ensemble, his own word-music ensemble, The Regie Gibson Project, and is He one half of the duo, Shakespeare to Hip-Hop: An education and performance vehicle integrating the performance and study of classical and modern texts into English curriculums.
  • 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.

    http://www.jasminemans.com/

  • 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.

    JulietteFay.Com
  • 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.

Pictures from the 25th Annual WCYWC (2015)

25th Annual Worcester County Young Writers Conference

Frequently Asked Questions

List of 7 items.

  • Who is eligible to attend?

    Students grades 7-12 with an interest in creative writing. In a typical year, students join us from approximately 40 schools from Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Connecticut. For our return to an in-person event in 2022, we are requiring proof of COVID vaccination.
  • When and where is the event?

    The conference will take place on March 26, 2022, at Saint John's High School in Shrewsbury, MA. 

    Conference Schedule:
    • 9:00 - 9:25– Participant Registration 
    • 9:30 - 10:25 – Workshop 1
    • 10:30 - 11:25 Workshop 2
    • 11:30 - 12:10 – Writer Panel Discussion 
    • 12:15 - 1:00 – Lunch
    • 1:00 - 1:55 -  Workshop 3
    • 2:00 - 2:45 - Student Open Mic
  • What happens during workshops?

    Students meet with writing mentors to learn aspects of craft, to generate new writing, and to share their work with their peers.
  • Who runs the writing workshops?

    Local writers who many years of experience publishing and mentoring. See mentor bios below.
  • What is the cost of the event and what does it include?

    The registration fee is $50 and includes all workshops and lunch.
  • What do I need to register?

    You must complete our electronic form to sign up. To register, you will need to provide
    • your name, 
    • your Email address and a parent’s Email address
    • your school and grade, 
    • your English teacher’s name and Email address
    • your workshop preferences
    • a picture of your COVID vaccination card
    The registration fee can be paid online by credit card or with a check by mail.
  • What are your pandemic-related safety precautions?

    We are requiring proof of vaccination from all attendees. The classrooms we will be using will be sanitized the night before the conference, as they are every night per Saint John's protocols. There is plenty of room in our classrooms to allow social distancing for participants.

    On March 4, the town of Shrewsbury dropped its mask mandates for schools. As such masks are optional for participants. We do advise you to wear a mask if you have a cold or if you have been in close contact with someone who has had COVID.

To Register

The registration deadline for the 2022 Betty Curtis Worcester County Young Writers' Conference has passed, and registration is now closed. There may be space available in some workshops sessions. To inquire, please email Diane Mulligan, dmulligan@stjohnshigh.org. 

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