On Oct 10, Washburn University hosted the 24th Annual Writing Conference and Literature Festival. This was the second year this event has been held at Washburn University, but the first year Sharon Draper has been the featured author and speaker. In Draper’s speech, she informed all of the young visiting students that “quality takes time”. She sent her first book to twenty-five different publishers before finally signing a deal with Simon and Schuster. Her first book has been translated into 22 different languages and has allowed her to travel worldwide to speak about the writing process. Before becoming a best-selling author, Draper was an English teacher for 30 years. She attributes her successful career to her love for books, reading, and writing. She has always encouraged her students to read and write to the greatest extent of their capabilities. When asked by a young student why she started writing, Draper responded, “Not for the money, that’s for sure. You don’t make money starting off. You write for the love of writing.”
This festival is put together each year by John “Jack” Bushman. Since last year, attendance has doubled for this event. When I asked Mr. Bushman about his selection for this year’s speaker, he stated that Sharon Draper is a longtime friend of himself and the festival. In years past, featured authors included Robert Cormier, Jay Asher, and Richard Peck. The main idea behind the festival is to provide literature for the youth. This festival is typically attended by schools from northeastern Kansas, such as Emporia, Junction City, and Topeka’s 501 district. At this year’s festival, one of Washburn’s English professors, Danny Wade, was awarded the Friend to the Writing Conference Award. The other main goal for this conference is to provide student interaction and a form of outreach program to help kids develop a love for reading. As a main part of the literature festival, a writing contest is held in order to give the students a chance to hone their skills in writing and also gives them an opportunity to win prizes with their stories.