Virtual Young Authors Conference

Presented by Success Beyond the Classroom in partnership with Southwest West Central Service Cooperative

Links to Password-Protected Monthly Content


See what a local educator has to say about SBC’s Virtual Young Authors Conference:
“Geoff Herbach’s and Marie Olofsdotter’s videos were exceptional and so appropriate for these young–yet often experienced writers.

This year (2020-2021), the Young Authors Conference is going online! From October to May, Virtual YAC will feature unique content each month, including:

  • Two recorded and one live session led by professional writers. Live session will be recorded and posted. Sessions will run approximately 30-45 minutes including writing activity;
  • Q&A with local writers that is topic-specific (for example, developing characters, sports writing, dialogue, the writing life);
  • Weekly blog featuring videos created by members of the Minnesota writing community sharing their creative writing passions, tips and tricks, and highlighting new and bestselling YA and children titles;
  • Teacher/Parent Resource – Virtual Book Club with Desdamona, YAC’s open mic emcee, Spoken Word Artist and performer; and
  • Space for SBC to feature the work of our young writers (online writing gallery curated by SBC).

Monthly Book Club Resource with Desdamona

You know her as the open mic emcee at YAC, Spoken Word Artist and performer, Desdamona! Each month, Des will select a MG or YA title and create a recorded video for teachers. Desdamona will model what a virtual book club meeting could look like. Videos will feature questions related to theme and characters, as well as writing prompts and conversation starters.

October: Dragons in a Bag by Zetta Elliott
Blended by Sharon Draper
December: The Unsung Hero of Birdsong USA by Brenda Woods
More to the Story by Hena Khan

View the Featured Authors for Each Month Below:

John Coy

John Coy

Behind the Words – What’s Really Being Said?

Live session: January 20 at 1pm
Live Q&A:
January 28 at 1pm

What do we need to create an effective scene? We start with characters and setting and then what comes next? In this workshop, you’ll bring your scene to life. We’ll make the adventure bigger and more interesting and you’ll surprise yourself. Come ready to write and explore the power of your words.

John Coy is the author of YA novels, the 4 for 4 middle-grade series, and numerous picture books including Dads, If We Were Gone, and My Mighty Journey. He lives in Minneapolis by the Mississippi River on Dakota land and visits schools around the world.

Naomi Downing

Naomi Kinsman

Through a Magical Doorway

Live session: January 13 at 1pm

In this session, we’ll use real-world objects as magical doorways. Through a series of visualization and question and answer games, writers will dream up and develop an imagined world, filled with story possibilities and potential.

Author of the four book From Sadie’s Sketchbook Series, Naomi Kinsman also created Spilled Ink, A Writer’s Notebook, winner of the 2009 Moonbeam Gold Medal for Educational/Activity book. As Executive Director for Society of Young Inklings, Naomi developed a play-based methodology to inspire and teach young writers called Writerly Play. Naomi has a BA in Theatre Arts from Seattle Pacific University and an MFA in Writing for Children and YA from Hamline University.

David Oppegaard

Surprise, Surprise!

In this fun session, we will talk about the art of surprising your reader and creating satisfying endings to your story. We will also engage in several writing exercises together that help sharpen our writing and make it more surprising.

David Oppegaard is the author of the Young Adult novels, The Town Built on Sorrow and The Firebug of Balrog County, a finalist for a MN Book Award. He has also published three other novels. His work is a mixture of horror, sci-fi, and literary fiction.

Abby Cooper

Abby Cooper

Behind the Words – What’s Really Being Said?

Live session: December 7 at 1pm
Live Q&A:
December 17 at 1pm

Just like real people, characters in stories don’t always say what they really mean. In this session, we’ll explore fun and interesting ways to develop meaningful layers of emotion in our writing. After all, words have power on AND beneath the surface. Today we’ll dive into both.

Abby Cooper is the author of Minnesota Book Award Finalist STICKS & STONES, BUBBLES, and FRIEND OR FICTION. She lives in Minneapolis with her husband, her poodle, and a whole bunch of books.

Myron Medcalf

Read Your Way to Better Writing

The pandemic has had an effect on our normal routines. But it’s also an important opportunity to recommit ourselves to reading, which is the true key to better writing. Writing comes from a love of reading. In this session, I’ll show you how your favorite authors can help you become a better writer.

Myron Medcalf is currently a senior college basketball reporter and nationally syndicated radio host with ESPN. He also writes a semimonthly column for the Star Tribune. He’s a Minnesota State University, Mankato, graduate who has lived in the state for 20 years.


Guy Stewart

MAGIC & WARP – Using the Power of Words to Create Worlds of Fantasy & Science Fiction

I’ve used words to create wildly different Fantasy & Science Fiction worlds in my own short stories. Using exercises to strengthen your imagination by choosing words that will stir up ALL of a reader’s senses, we’ll practice in a famous writer’s world then jump into our own worlds to power them up with strong words!

Guy Stewart is a husband, father, father-in-law, grandfather, foster father, writer, and recently retired teacher and school counselor. He keeps a writing blog called POSSIBLY IRRITATING ESSAYS where he tries to help writers by dissecting his own work and gives weekly ideas for Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror stories.


Joe Horton

The Power of Surprise

Live session: November 19 @ 1pm

Learn how surprise plays a key role in the writing process and participate in a fun writing exercise that will turbocharge your ability to surprise yourself!

Joe Horton is an artist and rapper known for his work with experimental rap groups No Bird Sing. After receiving an MFA and publishing short stories, Horton turned his attention to visual storytelling with the exhibition of the short film ‘Vessel’ at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts in 2019.

J.M. Lee

J.M. Lee

What is Fanfiction?

Live Q&A: November 16 @ 10am

If you’ve heard of fanfiction and want to know more, this is the session for you! J.M. Lee, writer for The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, discusses what fanfiction is, and how it can help you practice important skills to become a better writer.

Born and raised in the great Minnesota north, J.M. spent his formative years searching for talking animals and believing he could control the weather. After pursuing nerdy interests in comparative film studies and screenwriting, he ended up with a degree in linguistics from the U of M.

Laura Purdie Salas

Any Word is a Poetic Word

We’ll explore the power of a single word by choosing a picture prompt, writing a paragraph, and then crafting a first draft of a poem. Our poem will explore both the meaning/idea of the word AND the word itself–its shape and form on the page. Let’s dive deep and get creative!

Former teacher and award-winning author Laura Purdie Salas believes reading and writing small picture books and poems can have a huge impact on your life. This author of Lion of the Sky, Snowman-Cold=Puddle, and many more books loves getting young writers excited about words!

Marie Olofsdotter

Marie Olofsdotter

Poetry: Weave Your Words Into Power

Joy Harjo, the U.S. poet laureate writes, “Remember the dance language is, that life is.” To her, poems are ‘carriers of dreams, knowledge and wisdom.’ Creativity is a powerful force, using tools like metaphor and anaphora, we’ll weave our words into poems full of power.

Marie Olofsdotter is a Swedish artist who lives in Minneapolis where she writes poetry, creates picture books, paints and works in mixed media. Her accolades include a Minnesota Book Award, a Loft Mentor Series Award in Poetry and grants from the Minnesota State Arts Board, the Jerome Foundation, and the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council. Marie’s work as a teaching artist has inspired young and old alike to be creative for over 25 years.

May Lee-Yang

May Lee-Yang

Scavenging for Poems

Live Session: October 8 at 1pm
Live Q&A: October 28 @ 1pm

Words are so powerful that they can have several life cycles. In this workshop, we will learn and create erasure poetry, a process of scavenging for poems in pre-written words.

May Lee-Yang writes poems, stories, and plays. Her plays have been produced at Theater Mu, Intermedia Arts, and other places. One of her poems was recently published onto sidewalks in St. Paul. She has an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Minnesota.

Geoff Herbach

Killer Concrete Details

In this fiction session, we will work to get rid of general language and build a wicked character and a great scene out of the assortment of odd, personal objects and particular emotions the character has and feels. This is the basis of painting a picture in your readers’ mind, a major part of great story writing.

Geoff Herbach is the author of a bunch of books, including Stupid Fast and Hooper. He has received the Cybil’s Award for best YA fiction, the Minnesota Book Award, and Outstanding Book by a Wisconsin author. He teaches creative writing and chairs the English Department at Minnesota State, Mankato.

2020-2021 Theme: Words Have Power

Words and stories hold tremendous power: they spark imagination, inspire confidence, help heal, honor family, show gratitude, demonstrate kindness, and share truth.

Watch Young Authors Conference author, Geoff Herbach, introduce Virtual YAC and share a great story related to our theme.

Red Balloon Bookshop & SBC

If you’ve been to the Young Authors Conference at Bethel University in the past, you already know about the AMAZING bookfair that Red Balloon Bookshop provides us every year. SBC has partnered with Red Balloon Bookshop for many years now and we couldn’t stand not having them be a part of this new, virtual year. When you shop at Red Balloon Bookshop online, enter the code “YAC2020” for a portion of your sale to go to Success Beyond the Classroom.

With the Young Authors Conference, students…

Are challenged and encouraged to be better writers.

Leave with new strategies, ideas, and skills to become a better writer.

Learn that strong writing skills are important in life.


For more information about about the Virtual Young Authors Conference or if you are interested in becoming a presenter, contact Colleen Feller at 612-638-1511.

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SBC is located in the lower level of Bethel University’s Anderson Center.