Sharon Draper speaks at annual conference

Tambour Bieker

Washburn hosted the 24th Annual Writing Conference and Literature Festival Oct. 10 in Washburn A/B. 

Middle school and high school students from Emporia, Junction City and Topeka’s 501 district came to listen to guest authors and lecturers talk about young adult literature. This is the second year that Washburn has hosted the event. 

This year’s featured author and speaker was Sharon Draper, best known for her critically acclaimed novel “Copper Sun.” In Draper’s speech, she told attendees that “quality takes time.” She said that “Tears of a Tiger,” her first novel, was sent to 25 different publishing companies before finally signing a deal with Simon & Schuster. “Tears of a Tiger” has since been translated into 22 different languages and has allowed her to travel around the world to speak about the importance of literature.

Before becoming a published author, Draper was an English teacher for 30 years. She said that she always encouraged her students to read and write beyond the classroom.

When asked by a student why she started writing, Draper said that her passion drove her to pursue it.

“[I’m not in it] for the money, that’s for sure,” Draper said. “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. According to Bushman, this year’s attendance was double that of last year’s. When making his selection for this year’s guest author, he said that Draper has been a longtime friend of his. In years past, featured authors included Robert Cormier, Jay Asher and Richard Peck.

One of the goals behind the festival is to provide literature and inspire a love of books and writing in today’s youth. At this year’s festival, Danny Wade, associate English professor, 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 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 give them an opportunity to win prizes for their stories.