When Jane Ligon was 16, she was a serious and shy teenager living in Spokane, Washington. She liked listening to music, either rap or classic rock, and spending time with friends. But, perhaps most of all, she liked to write. That interest led her to the “teen track” at the Port Townsend Writers’ Conference at Centrum where her father, Samuel Ligon, taught writing workshops. During that week, she said, she experienced something she never had before.
“It was a really cool experience to meet a group of my peers who were also writers, and, in a concentrated way, be able to explore that part of ourselves,” Ligon, now 20, said. She attended the conference three years in a row.
“We were a tribe, looking out for each other,” she said of her fellow student attendees. “I learned to come out of my shell and have fun even though I was doing something that felt serious.”
This year, Centrum is offering even more to high school students interested in writing by offering them a conference of their very own, from July 9-15, 2017. The High School Writers’ Conference will be the only one of its kind in the nation.
“Seeing the advanced work that came out of the high-school track helped us realize that we needed a conference specifically for young writers,” Jordan Hartt, Writing
Program manager at Centrum said. “Students come out of these programs inspired, with new shared connections and friendships, and with new technical skills to last a lifetime.”
The High School Writers’ Conference will provide young writers with core morning workshops, afternoon workshops in special topics, guided freewrites, open-mic sessions, a vibrant readings and lectures series, guided outdoor time and space designed for rest and relaxation. Scholarships are available for Jefferson County residents.
Samuel Ligon, who is the artistic director of the Port Townsend Writers’ Conference, will be teaching a class titled “Flash Fiction Boot Camp” during the high school conference.
“It’s an incredibly playful and elastic form that tends to be experimental,” Ligon said of flash fiction, “I like to do this class with kids because they haven’t been ruined yet by believing there’s a way things should be. I don’t want you to guess what I want you to write. I’m interested in you finding your own voice and your own vision.”
Ligon is a published author who has taught writing for 28 years. He remembered the kind of teacher who helped him when he was a teenager.
“When I was that age I was writing for the school newspaper. I was kind of a weird kid, an art kid,” Ligon recalled. “I had the good luck of having teachers who had high expectations of me. They treated me like a person who had something to say, which was incredibly cool.”
In addition to Ligon, two other accomplished writers will teach at the high school conference. Alexandra Teague will teach a class titled “Next Year’s Words Await Another Voice: Finding Each Poem’s Voice” and Gary Copeland Lilley will teach “The Word Written and Spoken.”
“Students see results through our programs,” Hartt said of Centrum. “Because of our full-immersion philosophy, students make artistic gains quickly.”