Friday, July 4, 2014

How One Teen Writer Discovered the One Year Adventure Novel Summer Workshop

Jill Williamson is a chocolate loving, daydreaming, creator of kingdoms. She writes weird books for teens in lots of weird genres like, fantasy (Blood of Kings trilogy), science fiction (Replication), and dystopian (The Safe Lands trilogy). Find Jill on FacebookTwitterPinterest, or on her author website.

You all saw my pictures from the conference I was at last week. And if you didn't, click here.

In my opinion, there is no better place for a writer to go than to a writers conference. It is where those like us congregate. You feel like you are in a place with people who think like you. Everyone is hearing voices in their heads and that's a GOOD THING. It's a wonderful feeling. Good times. And when that writers conference is made up of mostly teenagers... even better times.

I met Michaella at this year's One Year Adventure Novel Summer Workshop. She was one of the first people I saw when I walked into the main building. She ran up to me and said that she followed the Go Teen Writers blog and had found OYAN because of a blog post I wrote on Go Teen Writers last year. I needed to know more. Plus, I wanted to tell you all about the One Year Adventure Novel program, and interviewing Michaella seemed like the best way to do it.

Thanks for talking with me, Michaella! Tell us, what is OYAN?
One Year Adventure Novel is a writing curriculum by Daniel Schwabauer. It teaches teenagers how to craft an adventure story within one school year. To quote the website, “The One Year Adventure Novel curriculum guides students through the process of writing a structured, compelling adventure novel over the course of one school year.” It doesn't teach grammar, or whether or not you should use “ly's.” A good story is the plan.

There are rules for telling stories, like the rules in sports, or the correct way your music teacher shows you how to hold your violin bow. If you break the rules of soccer, you will probably never play for the USA in the World Cup. If you hold your violin bow wrong, your hand will cramp, and your notes will sound like a dying cat. If you swerve from the rules of story-telling, your hero might be boring, your story goal nonexistent, your plot flat, or your ending unsatisfying. For my three-year writing career before OYAN I lived up to all four.

Where did you first hear about OYAN?
I first learned about OYAN while browsing the archives on I came upon a post about a teen conference Jill spoke at. At the time I had been considering attending the ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) conference, but kids had to have an adult with them at all times. ACFW was so expensive that only published authors could afford it, but OYAN was cheap by comparison. If I attended ACFW I would stay by my mom or Becky, my writing friend. I wouldn't branch out and meet people. An all kids conference was just the thing for a shy girl like me.

How did you sign up?
I thought that the OYAN conference sounded pretty swell, so I raised enough money to attend. When I sat down to sign up for the conference, I read the fine print that you had to have a curriculum serial number. That threw a hitch in my plans. But, doing the curriculum couldn't hurt, so I bought it online at It came in the mail about three days later. In the two minutes looking over the textbook, I learned things I had never even considered.

Does it have a cost? If so, how much?
Like all school curriculums, OYAN does cost money. It is $239 for the workbook, textbook, lesson DVDs, weekly quizzes, and a fun story called The Prisoner Of Zenda. I cheated and read the first chapter of Zenda right after opening the package. Any book about my fellow gingers is my friend.

[Note from Jill: The Summer Workshop event has an additional cost to attend. Click here to see what this year's costs were. There is a cost for registration, meals, and lodging. (Some students brought food with them and skipped buying the meal pass.) Plus you have to get yourself there. But as Michaella said, it's much cheaper than other writers conferences.]

Do you have to be a home-schooled student?
The curriculum is designed for home-schooled students, but I've met a few public students who do it. I'd suggest you dedicate four hours a week. The DVD lessons don't take long, but sometimes you have to write chapters.

Has OYAN helped you become a better writer?
Oh yes. I'd never heard of story structure before OYAN. When my writing mentor told me that my novel didn't have a climax or showdown, I didn't understand a word she said. After the first OYAN lesson, I realized that a story can't just taper down from the middle. It needs a big explosive climax before the end. More re-writes! Whee!

So you got into this because you wanted to attend the Summer Workshop. Then you ended up purchasing the curriculum as well, since that was a requirement to attend. So what is the Summer Workshop, anyway?
The Summer Workshop is the annual convention of OYANers all over the world and lasts about four full days. But that is a tame description. Summer Workshop is the epitome of Authorly awesomeness, filled with 3rd person Jill Sessions, nutty critique groups, boxes of sock monkeys, and Jeff Gerke's costumes! Or, as I described it to my five-year-old brother, “We listen to grown-ups talk in the morning, read people's stories and fight nerf battles in the afternoon, and listen to more grown-ups talk in the evening. Not much sleep is involved.”

What are some of the highlights of attending the Summer Workshop?
The critique groups were my favorite part. You bring four pages of your novel each day. You read out loud, and your group gives comments. I was in the Flooded Caves group. They were a lot of fun. On Friday we acted out a fight scene from my book.

Michaella with the Flooded Caves Critique Group

The sessions were amazing. I can't say who my favorite speaker was. Jill was the most practical and down-to-earth, Jeff Gerke was the funniest, Mr S spoke on the loftiest ideas, Tineke Bryton inspired me, and Professor Mark taught the history of Hobbits and monsters. Did you know the early Christians thought that when (not if) you met a werewolf or satyr, you should convert it?

The comradeship was refreshing. I could talk freely about writing topics without having to guard my tongue lest I blab something strange. We all understood each other.

Do you plan to go to summer workshop again?
I plan on attending next year if I can afford it. This year I didn't have enough money at first. My family has been going through tough financial times. We wouldn't even have been able to pay for gas to drive to Kansas City, or tennis shoes to replace my ripped up old pair. My Daddy and I thought and thought, and came up with a plan. I had saved Christmas and birthday money and done odd jobs for neighbors, but needed much more help, so I wrote a letter asking for sponsors, and sent it to friends and family. I asked for different amounts. For ten dollars, I would send sponsors a new short story. For twenty-five I would send a map of my story world. For fifty I would list the sponsor's names in the acknowledgments section of my first book. For one hundred, I would send the sponsors a 1st edition autographed copy of my first book when I get published. My sponsors provided enough money to completely fund my trip, plus the cost of my OYAN curriculum I purchased a few weeks before.

So, if you think that only rich kids with upper-class parents can go to conferences, rethink. You can earn money, but you have to be creative. Finding sponsors was a lot of work, but OYAN was worth it all. I hope to see many more of my GoTeenWriters friends there next year.

I am so impressed by your fundraising, Michaella! Thank you so much for talking with me and sharing your story about how you found OYAN. And I hope to see you there next year too. 

What about the rest of you? Have you ever attended a writers conference? Do you plan to? You might check out the OYAN curriculum and give it a try. My kids go to public school, but I plan to purchase it for them when they get into high school. Right now, my kids are doing the middle school curriculum Cover Story, and they are loving it. Mr. S is a lot of fun. And someday I hope my kids are in the group shot they take at OYAN every year.


  1. I was at the SW this year, and loved every minute of it. Like Michaella said, it's amazing to be able to talk about writing stuff without worrying about saying something "weird." Like talking to the imaginary people in your head. (I remember the one night I had an argument with my villain [aloud] and instead of getting people looking at me like I was crazy, everyone was laughing and helping my villain come up with comebacks. It was awesome.)

    And the fundraising idea is amazing, Michaella. Now I have an alternative to getting a job and walking there (which is what me and a few friends decided we'd do if it came to that XD). Thanks for the post!

    1. That sounds awesome, Catsi! SW is such a great environment of creativity. I love that. (Hope you won't have to walk next year.) :-)

    2. I hope I won't have to, either... my poor feet... XD

  2. Sounds awesome! Kansas City is quite a long trek from here, I'm afraid (I've never been that far west!), and I've never done OYAN...but I've heard such awesome stuff about it, so maybe in the 15-16 school year I can convince my mom that it's a good idea ;) She's already heard of it, too, which helps. Haha. :)

    Thanks for sharing! Happy Independence Day to all you fellow Americans out there! :)

    1. Happy Independence day! :D
      Definitely do OYAN. It's amazing. Tell your mom mine has only good things to say about it. She highly recommends it.

    2. Oh, I hope you can do OYAN, Amanda. It is a wonderful program. And happy Independence Day to you, too!

  3. I attended my first conference in the end of May. It was Realm Makers, and I loved it. I got to meet Jeff Gerke and Steve Laube, as well as Tosca Lee and others. I had to save for two years to go, but it was worth it.

    I'm in college now, so OYAN would not work well for myself, but I may check it out sometime. I am going to start teaching creative writing at a home school co-op in the Fall. I plan to use the Go Teen Writers book in my class.

    1. I'm planning to attend Realm Makers next year! I've always wanted to go, but like everything else, it's an expensive trip. But I'm going to try and save up for it next year.

      Have fun with your co-op! And I'm honored that you would use the GTW book. :-)

    2. It is expensive, and a really long drive for me. I drove 11 hrs there and 10 hrs back.

  4. I'll be doing OYAN for school this year, so I'm glad to hear such good things about it!
    - Katie

  5. I went to the SW last year, and loved it. Hoping to go back sometime soon.

  6. Hi! I love your blog so much and its been a really big help in my writing. The conference sounds so fun. I was just wondering if you knew of any other teen conferences that happens during the summer. I've never been to a writer's conference before but I'm thinking of going to one next summer or something and I've tried looking some up but I could never find any. :)

    1. I don't know of any others specifically for teens. I've met many teens at the regular writers conferences I've attended over the years. The best thing you can do is to Google "teen writers conference" or even "writers conference" and the name of the biggest city near where you live and you'll find some. It also might help to add a specific genre keyword(s) as to what type of book you are writing. Ex: fantasy, mystery, teen, children's, Christian, romance, science fiction, historical, etc.

    2. There are sooooo many! Just peruse google and you'll find a ton. There are usually some that are specific to your state/area. For example, I went to Tennessee's Young Writer's Conference. Another that I know of that has received glowing reviews is the writing workshop at Interlochen in Michigan. Interlochen is a boarding school for the arts that offers both summer and school year classes. Good luck, Anon! And I like what Jill said about genre^^ I was a bit disappointed in my writing conference experience because it wasn't specific to novels. I attended some wonderful poetry classes but I regretted that I never received any instruction specific to my genre.

  7. I want to buy the OYAN curriculum once I earn enough money, and then go to the conference because it sounds AMAZING! Nerf gun fights?!? Yes!! :D Thanks for the post and Happy Independence Day for those of you whose Independence day is today! :)

    1. It's pretty amazing. The curriculum AND the Nerf gun fights. :-)

      Happy Independence Day to you, too!

  8. Wow, i never heard of this before, but now I'm hooked, but like Michaella it'll be a tight squeeze for my family and I, but I'm sure I can save up for it :) thanks for sharing!