Jennifer Bardsley was awed and impressed by the 1,000 teenagers and budding novelists she met at Teen Author Boot Camp in Provo, Utah. (Jennifer Bardsley)

Jennifer Bardsley was awed and impressed by the 1,000 teenagers and budding novelists she met at Teen Author Boot Camp in Provo, Utah. (Jennifer Bardsley)

Does your teenager love to write? Send her to boot camp

Jennifer Bardsley was one of 20 writers to speak at this year’s Teen Author Boot Camp in Provo, Utah.

The Utah Valley Convention Center was packed to the brim with 1,000 teenagers from all over the U.S. on March 23.

They were there for the ninth annual Teen Author Boot Camp. This year’s keynote speakers were New York Times bestselling authors Ally Carter and Brandon Mull, giving budding writers the chance to literally learn from the best of the best.

I first heard about the boot camp several years ago when my debut young adult series came out. Two of the co-founders — authors Jennifer Jenkins and Jo Schaffer — were my “publishing siblings.” That’s industry lingo for we all had books released from the same publishing house. But I’d never experienced boot camp until now.

Jennifer and Jo warned me that when they marched all of us author “drill sergeants” into the ballroom it would be emotional, and they were right.

For one thing, I was exhausted. I’d spent the previous three days visiting middle schools and libraries all over Utah Valley promoting my new book, “Narcosis Room” by Louise Cypress. For another, I was surrounded by so much positive energy that it was impossible not to feel kids’ enthusiasm wash over me.

This year, the theme of boot camp was “Find Your Clan,” and as I looked across the ballroom I saw teens in all direction who were passionate about writing. Their arms carried stacks of books, notebooks and computers. Some of them were dressed up as their favorite book characters. Every single teen was so motivated to be there that they’d showed up at 8 a.m. Saturday ready to learn.

Ally Carter, author of “The Gallagher Girls” series, kicked the conference off with a metaphor about why creative writing is like a garden hose that’s been dormant all winter. You have to let the hose run a while to get out all of the cobwebs before the clean water flows.

After the opening ceremonies, students attended workshops taught by more than 20 different authors. My class was called “Ponder, List, Outline, Type: Plot Your Novel in 4 Easy Steps.” I brought 200 handouts with me and didn’t have enough for all my students. I ran around the ballroom to answer questions and saw teens furiously taking notes about everything I said.

Later that evening, Brandon Mull, of “Fablehaven” fame, concluded the conference by sharing how important it was to follow your creative dreams and not give up. “Don’t let all the meaness kill your honesty,” he told the kids. “It’s OK to write what matters most to you.”

When I was a teenager I only had time to write essays and college applications. That’s not what matters most to me. It never has, and it never will.

I wish I could teleport every Washington teenager who loves to write to Provo, Utah, for Teen Author Boot Camp 2020, but since I can’t, I’ve gathered some of my best tips about writing on my website. Find it here: louisecypress.com/writing-tips.

Authors need resilience, practice and encouragement. You’re never too old — or too young — to write what you love.

Jennifer Bardsley publishes books under her own name and the pseudonym Louise Cypress. Find her online on Instagram @the_ya_gal, on Twitter @jennbardsley or on Facebook as The YA Gal. Email her at teachingmybabytoread@gmail.com.

Talk to us

More in Life

Josh Haazard Stands inside his workspace, the HaazLab, where he creates a variety of cosplay props and other creative gadgets, on Thursday, Aug. 4, 2022, at his home in Monroe, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
This contraption crafter turns junk into sci-fi weaponry

Joshamee “The Chief” Haazard is a costume prop maker in Monroe. He transforms trash into treasure.

For your kids’ sake, stress less about their grades this school year

Don’t make a big deal over grades. Instead, encourage out-of-classroom activities and remember, learning is supposed to be fun.

At the prehistoric fortress of Dun Aengus, the dramatic west cliffs of Ireland meet the turbulent sea as Europe comes to an abrupt end. (Rick Steves' Europe)
Enjoy the simple life on Ireland’s starkly beautiful Aran Islands

Three limestone islands make up the Aran Islands: Inishmore, Inishmaan, and Inisheer.

American Queen changes COVID protocols; can I get a refund?

fter American Queen changes its COVID protocols, Patricia Voorhees Furlong and her husband want to skip their river cruise. Is that allowed? Or, will they lose out on $7,858?

Erika Weinert, an Everett-based mother, editor and now author, sits at her home workspace and holds her first published book, “Cursing with Style” on Saturday, Aug. 6, 2022, in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
What the @#$%! Everett mom publishes a dictionary of curse words

Erika M. Weinert, 42, a copy editor who does business as The Werd Nerd, wrote “Cursing with Style.”

The 2022 Lexus GX has a 301-horsepower V8 engine, six-speed automatic transmission, and full time all-wheel drive. (Lexus)
Updated 2022 Lexus GX 460 expands list of standard features

Navigation and a 10.3-inch multimedia system with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are included.

Bruce Johnson has an exhibit on the history of clowns at the Lynnwood Library in Lynnwood, Washington on August 11, 2022. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Clown historian takes the funny business very seriously

Bruce Johnson, a.k.a “Charlie the Juggling Clown,” wants to pass his craft down to future generations.

Ella Larson, left, and Simon Fuentes sort through blueberries at Hazel Blue Acres on Friday, Aug. 12, 2022 in Arlington, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Fruits, flowers and bees aplenty in Arlington farm fete

First-ever event highlights local growers’ bounty and contributions to local community

A bald eagle flys over Howarth Park back to it’s perch on Friday, April 22, 2022 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Learn how to photograph birds in three-part workshop

Participants will learn to make appealing, sharp bird photos even if they are new to photography.

The Snohomish County PUD recently installed two electric vehicle fast chargers adjacent to public parking stalls on the north side of the Electric Building.
PUD installs fast chargers for electric vehicle drivers

Funding for the t62.5-kilowatt chargers came in part from fines paid by Volkswagen over its 2015 diesel engine scandal.

Airbnb host cancels, and now he has to pay $1,300 more

When Curtis Rahman’s Airbnb host cancels his reservation a day before his arrival, he tries to find a substitute apartment. But the new property is smaller and costs more. Is a $200 credit enough to make up for the trouble?

Antique tools can be interesting collectibles. This gadget, a mechanical rope twister, has a patent date of 1901.
Most people today would not recognize this rope twister

Is it a kitchen gadget — perhaps a fruit or vegetable peeler? Some kind of grinder or chopper? In fact, it’s a mechanical rope twister.