Author expands support for young writers

Ladner's Laura Thomas, who took her annual short story contest global this year, also hosting conferences

Ladner author Laura Michelle Thomas knows first-hand what it's like to want to be a writer and feel lost and unsupported. That's why she has been fostering the development of young writers in B.C. for nearly a decade, and more recently, young writers around the world.

It's also why she's pleased to announce that nine young writers in financial need will be receiving scholarships to attend her Junior Authors Conference in Richmond on Oct. 19.

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Thomas, who is wellknown in education circles for her writing camps and workshops, said she is now turning down teaching gigs in lieu of hosting specialty one-day conferences for young writers, both locally and abroad.

The first of those is happening at the Sandman Signature Resort in Richmond on Oct. 19. Next is London, UK in May, followed by Toronto, and Richmond again in October 2014.

"I started my Junior Authors contests and courses because young writers are a neglected group of artists," said Thomas.

"First, you can't expect very young writers to attend conferences for adults or compete against adult writers. Second, community arts programs offer little in the way of literary programming. Third, writing is tough. Your grandparents can't come and watch you perform. It's lonely, hard to understand and it really helps to have the support of someone who has been there."

After running her Junior Authors Short Story Contest for five years, Thomas almost made the decision to stop offering services for young writers so she would have more time for her own writing projects.

"Then I judged the contest stories in 2012 and gave out the prizes. The writers and parents were so thankful," said Thomas, "so I decided I would go big or go home."

Thomas went big in 2013 by taking the competition online and global, attracting more than 1,800 young writers from 67 countries. The finalists, 132 writers in four age categories, were announced in September and the top six in each age group will be announced live from the Richmond conference. Contestants from around the world can tune in through Twitter and Facebook.

Thomas is flooded with comments, questions and requests for more writing opportunities from young writers daily. In response, she has created a free, international Junior Authors Poetry Contest, which opened Aug. 31. In the first month, over 140 young writers from 21 countries entered.

Next year, with the help of young writers on her global team, Thomas plans to add a free scriptwriting contest, along with more conferences in the U.S., Australia and India.

Tickets for the Richmond conference are available for purchase online or by phone or email. For more information about Junior Authors conferences or contests, visit www.juniorauthorsconference.com.

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