I’ve just returned from four days at the Bread Loaf, Vermont campus of Middlebury College, where I was one of twenty-two writers teaching at the New England Young Writers Conference. It was my first time at this annual event, and it was an amazing experience, working with talented high-school-aged writers from all over New England. I can’t remember the last time I had so much fun in a gathering with other writers, or felt so humbled by the talent around me (and I’m referring as much to the students as to the professionals).
It was also the nicest, most welcoming bunch of people I’ve met in years. It rained the whole time I was there, but I didn’t see a frown all weekend. Though I was the only science fiction writer among poets, nonfiction writers, and young adult and mainstream fiction writers, I felt completely at home—more at home than I sometimes feel at SF gatherings. I’ll remember with pleasure both the adult friends I made and the group of kids I worked with, and for that matter the girls who came over at the dance and asked me to join their group on the dance floor, “because only the kids are dancing, and if you dance with us, maybe the other adults will join in.” And they were right—all the grups in the place heaved themselves up and we danced the night away.
I was invited to bring my family along, and my younger daughter came with me, diving right into the workshops and making friends with other kids, despite being a couple of years younger than most of them. They’re already emailing each other back and forth. And though older daughter didn’t come*, one of her friends from school turned out to be there.
One reason I’m going on about this is that I want to get the word out that this is a terrific event. If you’re a high-school aged writer or know one or teach one, check it out at http://community.middlebury.edu/~neywc/. (The web site is a bit pedestrian, but it’s maintained by the college, not the conference staff. It doesn’t do the event justice.)
*Older daughter opted to stay home to go to the prom, taking the opportunity to get her hair cut in a Mohawk. Oy. I’ll say, though—after looking at the prom pictures of her friends in wild and colorful hair styles, and noting that most of the kids didn’t bother with dates but just went with friends—that they seemed to have a much better idea of how to have fun than I did at that age.