• Young Writers Conference
  • Young Writers Conference
  • Young Writers Conference
  • Young Writers Conference

Young Writers Conference

  • Young Writers Conference
  • Young Writers Conference
  • Young Writers Conference
  • Young Writers Conference

Date: Friday, November 18, 2016


8:30-9:00AM- Check-in and Registration, Watkins Auditorium, Boling University Center

Concurrent Sessions for Students

Roots and Routes: Writing Poems of Place in an Age of Wandering – Leslie LaChance
The Art and Craft of Paperback Romance Novels – Lucia Florida
Resumes: Your Key to Gainful Employment – Trisha Capansky
Erasing Boundaries: Finding Found Poetry in things You Already Have Around the House – Sally Brannen
What’cha Writin’? Topic, Purpose, and Audience – Heidi Huse
Writing the Narrative of Chivalry: Then and Now – Daniel Pigg
Journal Writing: More Than Just Your Story – Tiffany Emerson


Old School/New School- Tiana Clark
“Don’t Fish Downstream of Bob Dylan:” a Songwriting Workshop – David Carithers
Practical Advice: What It Takes to Write a Young Adult Novel – Merry Brown
Playwriting Through Improvisation, or Romeo: “I’ve Forgotten My Line” Juliet: “Who Cares?” – John Galyean
Searching Allegory’s Curious Frame – Chris Hill
Thinking, Feeling, and Writing about a Place: The Martin Luther King Memorial – Tim Hacker
Writing Effective Letters of Application – Lynn Alexander

Sessions for Teachers

Keeping It Real: Using Nonfiction Texts to Foster Informed Writing and to Promote Forward Thinking – Lana Warren


Writing Across the Curriculum & Outside the Box – Karen DiBella


12:30-1:45PM – Lunch and Keynote Address by Tiana Clark, University Center Ballroom


2:00-3:00PM – Open-mic Student Reading, Legislative Chamber, Room 111 University Center



Student Registration

Teacher Registration


(Click to expand/collapse)


9:00-10:30AM Student Workshops

Roots and Routes: Writing Poems of Place in an Age of Wandering —Leslie LaChance

In this workshop we will explore the long tradition of poets writing about places both real and imagined. We’ll study examples of poems from ancient times to the present to discover how poets draw upon the idea of place for image-rich description. We’ll also look at some poems about place from travelers’ perspectives to see what they might teach us about our relationship to places through which we pass only temporarily. Then we’ll spend some time applying what we’ve learned and will draft some of our own poems about place. We’ll finish up by sharing some of those poems with others in the workshop.


The Art and Craft of Paperback Romance Novels—Lucia Flórido

Have you ever wondered who reads novels such as The Firefighter’s Secret Baby or Temptation in a Kilt? Have you ever wondered how difficult it can possibly be to write something like “Married to the Werewolf Navy Seal” or “The Alluring Billionaire Country Doctor”? Wonder no more! In this workshop, you will learn about the different ‘flavors’ within the genre and their essential elements. In one hour, you will understand the expectations of your standard audience, become an expert in the craft of appealing titles, pinpoint the indispensable components of the narrative, and discover the steps to the creation of the most extraordinary plots. In one single hour, you will be given the tools to live a life of literary fame and unimaginable fortune!


Resumes: Your Key to Gainful Employment—Trisha Capansky

At this point in your life, the most important form of technical communication that you’ll be writing is your resume. Think about it. That single sheet of paper can determine what kind of car you drive, neighborhood you live in, clothes you wear, food you eat, vacations you take, and the overall quality of life you have. You submit a resume because you are looking for a particular position within a particular profession, right? Well, if the reader (i.e., your potential employer) rejects the resume for whatever reason, you won’t be called in for an interview. Thus, there goes your chance at getting the job! This session will provide you with tips on resume development.


Erasing Boundaries: Finding Found Poetry in Things You Already Have Around the House—Sally Brannen

You’ll take familiar (and not so familiar) texts and like a rogue graffiti artist transform them into your own new poetic works that you’ll have an opportunity to share. You’ll never look at a stack of words the same way again as the thoughtful process can add new meaning and can mock, celebrate, counter, or refine the original text.


What’cha Writin’? Topic, Purpose, and Audience—Heidi Huse

Writer Natalie Goldberg tells the story of a student who came to her with two ideas for stories and wanted to know which to write; “write both of them and let me read them, and I’ll tell you what I think,” she told him. Her point was that it’s hard to know which one to write until you actually do the writing. Literally everything is potential “grounds for fiction”—or for a memoir, editorial, essay, play, or a researched position paper. We’ll workshop your writing using purpose and audience to explore the many possibilities for developing a topic into a piece of writing you—and your readers—can get excited about! Bring a handful of social media memes, magazine clippings, images, etc. that you might have fun developing into a poem, story, school newspaper article, or essay.


Writing The Narrative of Chivalry: Then and Now—Daniel Pigg

The world of knights with their chivalric behavior has fascinated readers from the Middle Ages to today. From the works of Sir Thomas Malory to one of the latest modern chivalric novels by Jay Rudd, Fatal Feast, readers can find the world of the medieval romance, focusing on adventure and a cast of characters that fill an imaginary world. In this session, we will not only learn some of the key characteristics of this genre of writing—some of its formulas—but we will also be able to engage in this kind of writing. After our period of writing, we can share our developing chivalric stories. Please note that chivalric stories often developed over centuries, so in our brief time, we are merely getting a start on a new decade or century of adventure writing!


Journal Writing: More Than Just Your Story—Tiffany Emerson

Participants will learn how journal writing can be used for various purposes, including for personal and professional aspirations. We as writers can explore thoughts, feelings, experiences, and observations that help us discover meanings and make connections. The workshop will introduce aspects of how journal writing can be used to help participants become more aware of how to express internal ideas and ponder external events. We will discuss journal writing, look at examples, practice creating our own prompt-directed journal entries, and share these writing experiences in the workshop.


10:45AM-12:15PM Student Workshops

Old School/New School—Tiana Clark

We, as poets, have inherited an incredible wealth of poetic examples from our literary forefathers and mothers. But how do we develop from those classic poems? How do we build on, subvert, refurbish, and electrify the old as to speak to our contemporary lives? In this workshop, we will write from prompts of old-school/ new-school poetry pairings (e.g. Gwendolyn Brooks/Terrance Hayes & Wallace Stevens/Danez Smith), to see how current writers are experimenting with the oldies, and to practice using our own techniques, ushering poetry into our present moment and beyond.


“Don’t Fish Downstream of Bob Dylan:” a Songwriting Workshop —David Carithers

Arlo Guthrie said that songs are out there to be caught; you just have to fish diligently for them. He also suggested that we not fish downstream of Bob Dylan, who tends to catch the good ones. In this session, Carithers will briefly discuss his creative influences, offer advice to aspiring songwriters, and share one of his original songs. Participants will then be given time to create new songs (in groups or individually) or revise materials in progress and share their works with the group. Participants are also encouraged to share their new material during the open mic session at 2:00 p.m. A limited number of instruments will be available (e.g., one or two guitars, a tambourine, etc.), so musicians are encouraged to bring their own. All styles of music and songwriting will be welcomed in this session.


Practical Advice: What It Takes to Write a Young Adult Novel —Merry Brown

Are you interested in learning about the process of writing a young adult book? Do you want to know what makes a book a “young adult” book instead of something else? Do you want to know how long your book should be? What should you do if (when!) you get stuck and/or bored with your story? What do you do once you’ve finished your book? (For that matter, how do you know when you’re done?) How do you get published? If you answer yes to any of the preceding questions, join our session!


Playwriting Through Improvisation, or Romeo: “I’ve Forgotten My Line” Juliet: Who cares? —John Galyean

Actors and writers involved in today’s theatre, television and film are more often than not veterans of improvisation. Companies like Chicago’s and Toronto’s The Second City and Los Angeles’ The Groundlings provide training and performance opportunities for future stars of stage and screen. Fully staged productions evolve out of classes in improv as well as from totally improvised performances. This workshop will expose students to the start of a process which turns improvisations into scripted performances. After a brief overview of the rules of improvisation (yes there are rules) we will create scenes out of little more than audience suggestions. Then a scene will be developed from the improvised work. Bring something to write with and on, and have your wits about you.


Searching Allegory’s Curious Frame—Chris Hill

In this workshop, we will encounter various ancient and modern examples of a unique and powerful intersection of imagery, symbol, and purpose: the allegory. We find allegory in old poems, long stories, fairy tales, science fiction, and all kinds of visual arts. What can seem difficult when looking at allegory as if it were a set of riddles can be much more fun when we look at it as an opportunity to make connections between all the kinds of things we already know. And the best part is, we know a lot more than we think! We will even try our hand at making little allegorical “frames” of our own.


Thinking, Feeling, and Writing about a Place: The Martin Luther King Memorial—Tim Hacker

A visitor to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC, will learn nothing about the war in Vietnam. There is no map to locate Vietnam in the world; no names or dates of battles; no information about the military units that served there, and when. Yet the Vietnam Veterans Memorial is spectacularly successful. Why? As architecture critic Robert Campbell says, “the purpose of a memorial isn’t memory; memory we can get from books. It’s catharsis”—the emotional jolt we get from art. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial teaches us to feel something new about the war. This presentation will use computer technology, especially still photographs, video clips, and animations, to learn how the design of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial—which is, after all, “one simple, single, unforgettable thing”—creates a sense of catharsis in the visitor. Then we’ll apply what we’ve learned—first by talking, then by writing—to the Martin Luther King Memorial.


Writing Effective Letters of Application—Lynn Alexander

Are the activities and programs you want to participate in asking you for a letter of application? Are you beginning your college applications? If the answer to either of these questions is yes, you will want to attend this session. We will be looking at how to shape the message in a letter to capture the reader’s interest and persuade her that you are a great candidate. We will also look at how to highlight strengths and downplay weaknesses. We will study examples and practice writing parts of the letter.


Teacher Sessions



Keeping It Real: Using Nonfiction Texts to Foster Informed Writing and to Promote Forward Thinking––Lana Warren

We know that the Common Core movement brought with it a stronger focus on nonfiction text. Common Core is fading out of sight, but teachers in all subject areas continue to see the value of reading, relating to, and writing about nonfiction. This session will present fresh ideas and sound advice to teachers who use nonfiction texts. Participants will have the opportunity to discuss and practice methods, and they will be invited to contribute their own success and talking points.




Writing Across the Curriculum & Outside the Box––Karen DiBella

This session will discuss various ways to integrate writing throughout the curriculum. We will explore creative approaches to engage students beyond essays and papers.


Guest Writer

Tiana Clark is the author of the poetry chapbook Equilibrium, selected by Afaa Michael Weaver for the 2016 Frost Place Chapbook Competition sponsored by Bull City Press. She is the winner of the 2016 Academy of American Poets Prize and 2015 Rattle Poetry Prize. Tiana is currently an MFA candidate at Vanderbilt University where she serves as Poetry Editor for Nashville Review. Her writing has appeared in or is forthcoming from Sewanee Review, Rattle, Best New Poets 2015, Crab Orchard Review, Southern Indiana Review, The Adroit Journal, Muzzle Magazine, Thrush Poetry Journal, The Offing, Grist Journal, and elsewhere.


Tiana grew up in Nashville and southern California. She is a graduate of Tennessee State University where she studied Africana and Women’s studies. She has received scholarships to The Sewanee Writers’ Workshop, The Frost Place Poetry Seminar, and The New Harmony Writers Workshop. Tiana has recently been awarded funding from the Nashville Metropolitan Arts Commission for her community project, Writing as Resistance, which provides creative writing workshops for trans youth. You can find out more at www.tianaclark.com.


Workshop Leaders

Lynn Alexander currently serves as the Dean of College of Humanities and Fine Arts at UT Martin. She teaches nineteenth- and twentieth-century British literature, women’s literature, and literary theory. Before earning her Ph.D. she worked as a technical writer for Murray Jones Murray Engineers and as an associate editor for Continental Heritage Press. She also has worked as a freelance technical writer for American Airlines and IPS Engineers.


Sally Brannen is a lecturer in English at UT Martin and a recipient of a Kentucky Arts Council grant for her poetry. Her poetry has appeared in journals such as Pegasus and Nibble. She received her B.S. in English (Technical Writing) and M.A. in English (Creative Writing) from Murray State University. Her hobbies include collecting antique radioactive Vaseline glass, caring for her semi-feral boyfriend and cats, and practicing a dedicated and passionate avoidance of spiders.


Merry Brown was born and raised in Bakersfield, California, and now lives in the northwest corner of Tennessee with her husband, three boys, and cat Daisy. She teaches philosophy at UT Martin, where she counts it a great privilege and joy to introduce students to perennial questions about the nature of the universe, meaning, morality, and the human condition. Merry Brown’s love of philosophy and young adult paranormal fiction inspired her to write her first novel, The Knowers, published in 2012. She is the author of five YA novels; her sixth is the forthcoming latest edition to the Four Families series.


Trisha Capansky teaches technical communication and business writing at UT Martin. Before entering academia, Capansky’s career involved working for several newspapers as a government reporter, and more recently as an urban planner for a municipality where she regulated land use and developed a cleanup program for blighted residential areas. Capansky’s interest in government also involves the application of nation building through communication platforms. Her studies have led to articles about cellular phone and internet usage in South Sudan, and she has a forthcoming book chapter which expands the study to Uganda.


David Carithers has taught at UT Martin since 2004, where he is an Associate Professor of English, Chair of the Department of English and Modern Foreign Languages, Co-Coordinator of the Hortense Parrish Writing Center, and Director of the West Tennessee Writing Project. David received his M.A. from Western Carolina University and a Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. David is a member of two local bands, The House Band and the Ivory Tower of Power, and he can often be found at UT Martin’s open mic nights sharing original songs.


Karen S. DiBella moved to Northwest TN in August 2013 from Southwest FL where she taught Intensive Reading for 6+ years in Lee County, FL, the state’s 7th largest district serving over 90,000 students, representing nearly120 languages. She also served as the Reading Department Chair in a Title I school. Although her undergraduate degree is in Journalism from Pennsylvania State University, she found her true calling when she entered the teaching field. She earned her Master’s in Reading Education, and her Ed.S. and Ed.D in Curriculum and Instruction from Florida Gulf Coast University. Currently, Dr. DiBella is an Assistant Professor of Reading at UT Martin and also serves as the Director of Reading Center.


Tiffany Emerson is currently an adjunct English instructor at UT Martin and has taught English composition classes for a number of years. In the past, she has also taught ESL classes. Her other past experiences include being an English learning specialist for the TRiO Student Support Services program, a writing center consultant, a substitute teacher in the public schools, and an instructional designer for Savant Learning Systems. She has a M.S. in Secondary Education and a M.A. in English. She likes to read and write (especially poetry), and she enjoys cultural and artistic activities and serving in the community.


Lucia Flórido is an Associate Professor of French. Dr. Flórido’s main academic interests are the literatures from French speaking countries and the existential conflicts Francophone authors convey through their writings. When she is not teaching, reading or doing research, Flórido spends time with her four dogs and bird. She loves animals and, in her spare time, she volunteers as a coordinator for adoptions and a progress reporter to a national dog rescue organization.


John Galyean holds B.A. degrees in Theatre and Economics from Ohio Wesleyan University and M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in Speech Communication with an emphasis in Theatre from Bowling Green State University. He has taught Theatre courses in colleges and universities in Kentucky, Oklahoma, Georgia, and Tennessee. John has acted and directed in theatre productions of all genres in college, community, and professional companies. In Los Angeles, John performed in film, television, commercials, voice-overs, and improvisational comedy. This past summer, He wrote a book for children called Musk Ox, Marmot, and Pika, Too, about three of his favorite North American animals on an adventure. In his spare time, he likes to play guitar, sing, draw cartoons, cook and eat Cincinnati-style chili, and binge watch favorite TV series.


Tim Hacker has been around language and foreign language all his life. His mother was the child of immigrants, and she grew up speaking German at home. Tim himself majored in Spanish and Portuguese as an undergraduate. He began his career teaching English as a Second Language with the Peace Corps in Thailand, where he became quite adept at Thai, and in Sri Lanka, where he learned a little bit of Sinhala and Tamil. For the past 21 years he has taught English Composition, the last 11 of them at UT Martin.


Chris Hill has been at UT Martin for nine years, teaching Shakespeare and Spenser and lot of other old books. He received his Ph.D. in English Literature at the University of North Carolina in 2005. He is the faculty sponsor for UT Martin’s student publication, Beanswitch. Other interests include bicycles, barbecue, and the beach. He and his spouse and their three young boys live in a house that appears to be shrinking every day.


Heidi Huse has been teaching writing and rhetoric courses at UT Martin for 15 years. She is currently the First-year Composition Coordinator and a faculty co-advisor of the UT Martin chapter of Sigma Tau Delta, the International English Honor Society. Her own writing centers on reflective and persuasive essays, blogging, and rhetorical analysis. She is currently collaborating on a grant proposal to improve and expand the campus recycling center. She is a co-coordinator of UTM Recycles!, a peace and animal advocate, and a vegan who supports civic engagement and sustainable living locally and globally.


Leslie LaChance is an Associate Professor of English at Volunteer State Community College, where she teaches literature and writing courses. In May of 2016, she’ll be teaching World Literature for Volunteer State in Segovia, Spain. Her poems have appeared in a number of literary journals, and her chapbook, How She Got That Way, was published by Toad Lily Press in 2013. Leslie taught English at UT Martin from 2002-2014, where she was one of the founders of the Young Writers Conference, so she’s very excited to be returning as a workshop leader. When she is not teaching, Leslie’s probably traveling, reading, writing, listening to music, binge watching trashy shows on Netflix, doing yoga, or cycling. If you happen to find her fixing a flat bicycle tire on one of Tennessee’s scenic back roads, please stop and keep her company for a bit.


Dan Pigg is a Professor of English at UT Martin. His Ph.D. work at The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and at the University of York (UK) focused on medieval British literature. Long an admirer of King Arthur and the mythic tales that developed in Europe during the high and late Middle Ages, he regularly teaches a first-year writing course that focuses on chivalry from the fourteenth century to the present. In that class, students begin the course with writing their own chivalric narrative. He will lead his session today in writing a chivalric narrative—the world of knights, ladies, noble quests, high ideals, and human realities.


Lana Warren has been teaching 9th–12th grade English for the past 18 years in public schools in west Tennessee. She also teaches composition courses at UT Martin. For the past 16 years, she has been a teacher consultant with the West Tennessee Writing Project, and she is the faculty sponsor for Warriors of the Ink, the student writing organization at Obion County Central High School in Troy, Tennessee.


Faculty & Staff Spotlight

See how Educational Outreach faculty are making a difference in the classroom and community.

View Faculty Spotlight >


UT Martin Advantage

UTM Advantage


Forgot your password?

Did you forget your My UTMartin Password?

Click here >