The Chapter One Young Writers Conference. Every story needs a beginning. This is ours.
Hey, guys! My name is Julia and I’m the founder of the Chapter One Young Writers Conference, an annual writing conference for and by teens and young adults. Our 2015 conference will take place Saturday, August 8th at the Courtyard Chicago Arlington Heights/South hotel in Arlington Heights, IL, a northern suburb of Chicago—with the one and only Kat Zhang as our keynote speaker!
So much of running the Chapter One Young Writers Conference since our inception in 2012 has been a learning process. While I’d attended a few conferences before diving into work for the first Ch1Con my senior year of high school, I had no business experience, no contacts in the publishing industry, and no idea what I was doing.
What I did have were some determined critique partners and some really supportive parents who were eager to jump into uncharted territory with me. While I handle all the legal stuff for Ch1Con (writing contracts; booking venues and speakers; making sure we’re doing everything, you know, not-illegally; etc.), at this point the Ch1Con team is made up of six or so other volunteers as well who help pick speakers, run our social media accounts and year-round online chats, and organize cool events like this blog tour.
One thing I wasn’t expecting when we started Ch1Con is that while the conference itself takes place once a year, the work to put together that event never stops. We started work for the 2015 conference the day after our 2014 one was finished, and we’re already looking into things for 2016.
So, what exactly goes into running a writing conference? After a couple years of putting on the Chapter One Young Writers Conference, our team has put together a step-by-step process for ensuring everything gets done on time and goes according to plan.
Step 1: Decide Details of the Event
The very first thing we do every year is make decisions on what type of event we’d like to put on: How many days do we want the conference to run? How many speakers do we want to bring in? What kinds of opportunities do we hope to bring our attendees?
We start work on these types of decisions as soon as the previous year’s conference is done. We review what worked and didn’t work about the previous year’s conference and figure out how we can improve upon those things for the next year.
Step 2: Choose a Date and Location
This is an easier step for us since we basically just crowdsource these decisions.
While we hope to take Ch1Con to more locations in the future, we’ve always held the conference in the Chicago suburb of Arlington Heights, IL so far because it was the easiest location for the majority of our team members to travel to in order to run the conference. We also love the Chicago area because there are a thousand and one activities to do outside of the conference and unlike most cities, it’s not outrageously expensive for those coming in from out of town.
As for a date: In order to make the 2015 conference available to as many people as possible, we put a poll on our website this past summer and let those who are interested in attending choose the date for us.
Step 3: Book a Venue
Because we decided to stay in Arlington Heights, IL again this year, it was easy enough to talk to the hotel we’ve rented conference rooms from the past couple years and book the same space again.
However, when we were originally choosing a location to hold the conference, we chose our venue based on a few factors:
- How large it is in comparison with our needs
- How expensive it is in comparison with its size (and other similar venues in the area)
- The ease with which those from out of town can travel to and from it if they don’t have a car
We try to book our venue as early as possible every year so that we can get the best possible price and ensure that we can have the date(s) we want. This year we booked about a year in advance, knowing just the barest details of what we’d need—then, while on a publicity trip to Chicago over spring break, I stopped by the hotel and met with their event specialist to go over the details and make sure everything will be exactly how we want it.
Step 4: Recruit Speakers
The 2015 conference will take place August 8th, so the Ch1Con team started organizing a list of potential speakers to contact in September of 2014. We started contacting them in October and finished filling out our roster in December.
We find our speakers in a variety of ways. One this year was recommended by a previous speaker; another I stumbled across completely by chance thanks to a serendipitously-timed publishing deal announcement. I already had Kat in mind to be our keynote speaker since I’d attended a writing workshop she took part in hosting for the Young Authors Give Back tour in 2013, so I knew she’d be great.
Step 5: Recruit Attendees
Drumming up interest in the conference is one of our most time-consuming (and fun) jobs. The marketing plan for Ch1Con 2015 is a multifaceted beast.
Since one of the things we really focus on with the conference is helping our attendees form a support network for the often rocky path to publication, we try to foster that community online during our off-months as well. We do this in three ways:
- Keeping an active presence through our social media accounts (Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, and Facebook)
- Blogging regularly through our partner site, Teens Can Write, Too!
- And hosting online events (live chats on Twitter twice a month, a live Q&A chat on YouTube once a month, and writing sprints throughout NaNoWriMo).
Outside of this, our marketing plan involves four other major components:
- Traditional advertising (such as placing ads in newspapers, magazines, and on websites)
- A two-part flyer campaign (part one: we plastered the greater Chicago area over my spring break with flyers advertising the conference) (part two: in early May, we’re doing the same with schools)
- Making sure we’re in local event calendars and on all those nifty lists of writing conferences for 2015 (because people being able to find us is good)
- And, of course, our annual blog tour (through which we’re sharing information on the conference, bonus content about our team and speakers, and behind-the-scenes looks at what goes into running the conference)
Of course, lots of other less interesting stuff also goes into keeping the Chapter One Young Writers Conference afloat (like taxes), but these are the things most directly involved in the run of the conference.
I’m so grateful for all the people involved with Ch1Con, from our volunteers to our speakers to our attendees and beyond. The fact that hosting a conference was this wild dream my critique partners and I had one day that actually came true is still unreal to me.
If you’re a writer from middle school to undergraduate age (approximately twelve to twenty-two) and are interested in attending and/or learning more about the conference, you can check us out at the links below. Early bird registration ends May 31st!
Website: Chapter One Young Writers Conference
Tumblr: Chapter One Young Writers Conference
YouTube: Chapter One Young Writers Conference
Pinterest: Chapter One YW Conference
Facebook: Chapter One Young Writers Conference
Thanks to Pub Crawl (and Kat) for hosting this stop on our blog tour!
As the founder and owner of Chapter One Events, LLC, JULIA BYERS has arguably the best job in the world. When she isn’t busy running the Chapter One Young Writers Conference, Julia is a junior at the University of Michigan, majoring in Creative Writing & Literature with a minor in Global Media Studies. Her work has appeared in the 82nd Annual Writer’s Digest Writing Competition Collection, the 17th and 18th Annual Café Shapiro Anthologies, and more. Recently she won the Children’s/Young Adult category of the 82nd Annual Writer’s Digest Writing Competition, a 2014 Hopwood Underclassmen Fiction Award, and the 2014 Arthur Miller Award. This past year she worked as a remote intern for a literary agent and studied literature abroad at St Peter’s College, University of Oxford. Currently Julia is an administrator and writer for the Teens Can Write, Too! blog, recently accepted a blogging position for the College section of The Huffington Post, is revising a novel, and enjoys tea and Netflix.