In mid-July, the Rose O’Neill Literary House hosted its third annual Cherry Tree Young Writers’ Conference at Washington College.
For high school students just finding their voice, the Cherry Tree Young Writers’ Conference is proof of the power of the written word to tackle important questions or record personal experiences, as well as the power of a strong literary community like that at Washington College. Drawn within the circle of writers and teachers committed to the craft, they develop the confidence to actually see themselves as writers too.
Over the course of four days in July, 16 young writers attended a series of creative writing workshops, faculty readings, book signings, and discussions about literature. In the pressroom, they learned about book arts and printed their own broadsides. In the quiet of the Rose O’Neill Literary House, they devoted afternoons to their own writing. And in the evenings, it was time for open mics, literary trivia games, and movies.
“It’s just so much fun to see them bonding over literature,” notes James Hall, who directs the conference and the Literary House. “Connecting with each other in a college environment, they get more confidence in themselves as writers. They see that their dream is a real possibility. That if you follow that passion and study it and take it seriously they can actually live that dream.”
In addition to Hall, the faculty writers included H.G. Carrillo, Julie Marie Wade, and Jehanne Dubrow, who launched the Cherry Tree conference three years ago when she was director of the Lit House.
“We invite writers who are not just published writers but really good teachers too— teachers who take them seriously. For the students, this may be the first time that they’ve shared their art,” Hall notes. “They may be shy and timid about that, so to get a little positive feedback means the world to them.”
A number of scholarships, including four sponsored by Dixon Valve for students in Kent and Queen Anne’s counties, are available each year. Next year’s conference is tentatively set for July 17-20, 2019, with registration opening this November.