I remember riding in the shuttle bus from the airport up the winding mountains of Sewanee, Tennessee. Little did I know, that it would become one of my favorite places on earth, and the place that I spent the best summer of my life at, on my way to the Sewanee Young Writers’ Conference. The conference is two weeks long, with three hour long workshops each day except for Sundays. The university staff conduct and organize the conference, and professional writers conduct the workshops, with only ten students per workshop. The environment was beautiful, we had a couple of hours to ourselves each day to write, explore, or hang out with other young writers. The workload was manageable and unique to each teacher, I only had a few stories to read per night and the occasional writing exercise. Most of the writing took place during workshop, which was my favorite part of the day. The first week was spent working on a project, depending on your subject matter, fiction, non-fiction, poetry, or playwriting, and the second week was spent with critiques and readings. There were guest speakers throughout the conference who talked about their works, writing tips, and more. As well as that, there were lectures from professors and readings from all the workshop teachers. These were what the staff liked to call “mandatory fun,” but I think all the young writers enjoyed them anyway. The campus was gorgeous, groups of us went on frequent adventures like hikes to secret swimming holes on the side of the mountain, hiking on hidden trails in the dead of night in the rain with a single flashlight, and stopping at unique shops and restaurants. All of these adventures inspired writings I produced during the conference, I believe that the freedom to explore and experience was one of the best parts of my two weeks at the University of the South. I learned what I was good at, what I needed to work on, and what I absolutely couldn’t pull off in my writing. Hearing what my peers wrote was educational too, I learned as much from them as I did the instructors. My experience at the Sewanee Young Writers’ Conference is something I will treasure forever. I made life-long friends, met incredible mentors and teachers, and went on adventures I couldn’t have had anywhere else with people I met there. The group of young writers I had the privilege of spending two weeks straight with was made up of the best people I’ve ever met, they were the funniest, sweetest, most honest, and coolest teenagers from every part of the world. People that I continue to workshop my works and Skype with when I’m missing them because we have a bond like no other. If you want to become a better writer, student, and meet great people in a beautiful place, this conference is definitely the one for you. I can’t say enough good things about the university and the staff, I’m so pleased with my two weeks at the conference and will recommend this program to any and every one I can.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.