Young Writers Network
We’re building a more diverse next generation of writers.
Founded by alumnx of the Vermont College of Fine Arts Writing for Children & Young Adults program, our mission is to bring the magic of VCFA to young writers in high-need and underserved communities. We connect professional authors with young writers through in-depth school residencies and other programming, helping the next generation discover their voices, develop their craft, and explore future careers in writing. We also support and equip authors looking to provide meaningful and memorable school visits and workshops.
- Every kid deserves to have their words and imagination taken seriously.
- Kids deserve stories that reflect the full human spectrum—and one part of cultivating more diverse books is supporting diverse writers from an early age.
- We can move whole systems by making more intentional connections across generations and between established and future writers.
- Artists should be paid for their work and top-notch programs should be available to communities with scarce resources—and these are not mutually exclusive ideas.
- It doesn’t take a lot to make a difference. In fact, we’re already proving it!
Portland Teens Share Their Stories with Karuna Riazi
We brought Salaam Reads’ Karuna Riazi to Portland, Maine, to celebrate the culmination of our multi-week project with two local middle schools and The Telling Room.
This extra-special project was funded by a Challenge America grant from the National Endowment for the Arts and was specifically designed for students from the area’s dynamic refugee communities.
Using Riazi’s The Gauntlet as a jumping off point, students worked with teaching artists Tamara Ellis Smith, Elisabeth Aroneau Sampson, and Katy Kelleher to craft fantastical stories based on personal experiences. The young writers drew on their lives as middle schoolers in Maine as well as their memories from more than a dozen countries of origin.
At the final celebration, the students from the two schools met each other and Karuna for the first time. They asked terrific questions, noshed on pizza, showered one another’s stories with positive sticky notes, and bravely stood to read from their stories.
A Deep Partnership in Boston
When we launched the VCFA Young Writers Network as a pilot project in 2015, 826 Boston was the first nonprofit partner to come on board. At the big kickoff, VCFA Writing for Children & Young Adults alum (and current faculty member) Kekla Magoon spoke with 9th graders at the O’Bryant High School in Roxbury about her book How It Went Down and their own writing about identity, social justice, and the American Dream.
Since then, VCFA writers have led a multitude of lively and engaging workshops with 826 Boston, as well as partnering with them for multi-day residencies at the Boston Teachers Union School in Jamaica Plain.
Telling Our Stories in the North Country
Children, families, teachers, and community members gathered for a first-of-its-kind celebration at the Tillotson Center in Colebrook, New Hampshire. Students from six schools in small North Country communities—far off the beaten path for most authors—participated in a multi-workshop series with visiting authors Tamara Ellis Smith, N. (Nicole) Griffin, and Erin E. Moulton. The young writers took the stage to share tales involving complex families, misadventuring loggers, tragedy, and humor.
This ambitious program was realized through our partnership with the Arts Alliance of Northern New Hampshire. A grant from the New England Foundation for the Arts doubled our reach and allowed authors to lead workshops for teachers and community members. Penguin Random House and Candlewick Press generously donated books for students to keep, and the Tillotson Center offered a truly gorgeous venue to celebrate. Since then, authors Carrie Jones, J. Albert Mann, Adi Rule, Alicia Potter and WCYA faculty chair Will Alexander have visited this beautiful, high-poverty region.
Offerings for Authors
We believe it’s vital to support authors who want to connect with young writers, helping them navigate the world of school visits, workshops, and residencies in order to create in-depth and unforgettable experiences for their students. Author-educators Katie Bayerl and Erin E. Moulton led workshops on planning inspiring school visits at the 2019 Writing for Children & Young Adults Alumnx Mini-Residency, and at the 2020 AMR, they were joined by faculty members An Na and Kekla Magoon and teaching author extraordinaires Cate Berry and Carrie Jones for a panel discussion on navigating virtual school visits and workshops.
Young writers benefit from caring mentors! Our residencies are led by talented authors from the VCFA community. We also support authors who want to dip their toes into the world of school visits or deepen the impact of their workshops.
We believe all kids deserve access to great writing programs! Our programs offer children and teens an opportunity to explore their own stories through engaging, authentic activities that increase their confidence, motivation, and skill as writers.
Our goal is to use VCFA’s powerful alumnx network to create broader, more equitable access to writing instruction for kids—and, over the long term, to foster a more diverse community of authors. Give now to support our young writers this year!