Interview: Carol Lynch Williams on the Writing & Illustrating for Young Readers Conference

By Cynthia Leitich Smith

Carol Lynch Williams is the author of more than 20 books for children and young adults. She has an MFA from Vermont College in Writing for Children and Young Adults. She is the proud mom of five daughters. Her newest novel, Waiting (Simon & Schuster, 2012), was released on May 1.

The videos featured below offer glimpses of past years at the Writing & Illustrating for Young Readers Conference (WIFYR). 

What is the Writing & Illustrating for Young Readers Conference?

Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers–now in its 13th year–is a week-long conference held in Sandy, Utah. It’s an intense program for anyone who is seriously interested in publishing books for children and teens. If you really want to publish, there will be people here who will be able to help you get the best work possible in the time allotted.

Many find this conference to be a life-changing experience as far as their career as writers or illustrators with 20 hours of morning classes and afternoon classes on craft to make better writers.

How did you come to be involved in the conference?

Almost 15 years ago, a good friend of mine, Dr. Chris Crowe (Mississippi, 1955 (Dial, 2002) and Getting Away with Murder (Dial, 2003)) asked me, “If you could attend the very best writing conference, what would it be like?”

That day was the beginning of Writing and Illustrating For Young Readers. We brainstormed for hours and came up with what we thought would be the absolute best conference that a writer would want to attend.

The conference continues to change–we’re always looking for ways to make the event more successful for attendees. But one thing that has never changed is that we’ve always had amazing faculty, speakers, editors, and agents.

What can participants expect from the workshops?

If you are signed up to come for a full day, you can expect to be in a small classroom setting with less than 15 like-minded writers. The 20 morning hours are devoted to workshopping your groups’ manuscripts. Your class will be visited by editors and agents. You learn from published writers and illustrators, and you’ll have an incredible time.

Afternoon classes are devoted to learning the craft of writing and illustrating. A variety of teachers talk about what they have learned. There is a Thursday evening keynote presentation (this year we have Trent ReedyWords in the Dust (Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic, 2011)), and there’s a plenary each day where either the agent or editors speak. Several participants have gotten their start or have sold books or have found their agents at this conference. 

What highlights of past conferences come to mind?

Well, of course the final song on the last day! 

Do you have any success stories to share?

There are so many. I’ll focus on only one. Matthew J. Kirby, author of Icefall (Scholastic, 2011) found his agent at WIFYR. Only days ago, he won the Edgar Award for that book! 

Could you tell us about the facilities, dining, setting, etc.?

Every faculty member that comes to the conference has the goal of helping the individuals in their class to become the best writer or illustrator possible. In all these years, we’ve never had even one faculty member who was not completely devoted to that goal. Our writers and illustrators are award-winning (Caldecott winners, Newbery winners, National Book Awards, Edgar winners– just to name a few). They are smart and caring.

A couple of years back we moved WIFYR from Brighan Young University to a private school, The Waterford School, in Sandy, Utah. Now we have large airy classrooms with lots of natural light and there’s a beautiful auditorium. There’s plenty of parking and lovely settings all around campus. In addition, there are several places to eat not far from Waterford. If you’re interested in hiking (assuming you’re not too exhausted from working so hard), you’ll find an array of options.

What is the cost? Is financial aid available? 

Morning classes are $495.00 (this includes the afternoon sessions). The illustrating class is $297.00 (a three-day week), and afternoon sessions are $120.00. We’re working with the Best Western CottonTree Inn (in Sandy, Utah) as far as hotel accommodations go. And this year there is a $1000.00 grand prize for qualified full-time attendees. We do not offer other financial aid.

Carol’s new release

What do you love about the conference?

I love the opportunity of spending time thinking about my writing, talking about books and getting to know new writers. I love the camaraderie of faculty and students, and how devoted the faculty is to helping people succeed. It’s a wonderful week.

Is there anything you’d like to add?

Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers (June 18 to June 22, 2012) is for that person who really wants to succeed. You will leave the conference excited and ready to work hard. If you’re in the right frame of mind, every class, every day will benefit you.

Cynsational Notes

Conference faculty include literary agent John M. Cusick, editors Ruth Katcher and Alexandra Penfold, and authors Cynthia and Greg Leitich Smith.

2 thoughts on “Interview: Carol Lynch Williams on the Writing & Illustrating for Young Readers Conference

  1. I love, love, LOVE this conference. I can't wait for June. (Oh, and if you want to see my chubby face, it's in the last video. :D)

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