What type of event can get hundreds of students to show up to school on a Saturday?
Try a writer’s workshop.
More than 600 students between sixth and 12th grades will gather at Curtis Junior High School in University Place the morning of May 6 for Cavalcade of Authors West, a Puget Sound Young Writers Workshop that puts students and some of their favorite authors in the classroom together.
But it’s not just any group of students, according to Puyallup residents and co-founders Carina Pierce and Kari Bradley.
They’re the next generation of readers and writers.
“For them, meeting an author is like meeting a rock star,” said Bradley, who teaches English at Curtis Junior High. “I think every time you can bring students together like that, you’re helping create lifelong readers. That’s totally what Cavalcade is about.”
For them, meeting an author is like meeting a rock star ... I think every time you can bring students together like that, you’re helping create lifelong readers. That’s totally what Cavalcade is about.
Kari Bradley, co-founder of Cavalcade of Authors West and English teacher at Curtis Junior High
“The overall goal is to provide an opportunity to students who are both readers and writers to be in the same space with writers who have found success and are encouraging,” added Pierce, a teacher and librarian at Cougar Mountain Middle School in Graham. “It encourages them to keep writing and to hone their craft.”
Pierce and Bradley were inspired to create the event after they discovered a Cavalcade of Authors event in Tri-Cities in 2014. Both were attending a teachers conference when they heard that some popular authors were in the area. When they set out to investigate, they found out about the event.
“We started talking about how it’d be great if we had something like that,” Pierce said.
They made contact with Cavalcade of Authors founder Michelle Lane. Upon finding there was nothing like the event in Western Washington, with Lane’s help, they began creating their own.
“We said, ‘We can totally do an event like this. We’re going to do this. Let’s make it happen,’” Bradley said.
They began contacting schools, local foundations and donors for funds, and other teachers and librarians for volunteers. The Milgard Family Foundation, Amazon and the Puyallup Tribe of Indians are among several organizations which help support the event.
The first event was held in May 2015 at Pacific Lutheran University, with around 200 students participating. In 2016, the group doubled in size. This year, more than 600 students are expected to attend — such a large group that the event was moved to Curtis Junior High. Both Puyallup and Sumner school districts are sending students to the event.
600 students are expected to show at the 2017 Calvalcade of Authors West writer’s workshop
The event also reaches many low-income students who would not get the chance to meet authors any other way, Pierce said.
“We recommend that the students who attend have read at least four books by the authors,” Bradley said. “That way they’re watching a presentation by an author whose writing they’re familiar with.”
Before the event, students can register for three workshops with three different author presentations. There are 18 children and young adult authors attending this year, including New York Times best-selling authors Margaret Stohl, Alyson Noël, Shannon Messenger, Ally Condie, Frank Beddor and Ally Carter.
“We want to make sure that our group is diverse,” Bradley said. We’re trying to change it up and expose students to lots of different authors.”
The event also supports local authors. Kimberly Derting, author of “The Body Finder” series, “The Taking” trilogy and “The Pledge” trilogy, lives in Bonney Lake and participated in Cavalcade of Authors West for its first two years. Last spring, she became a board member.
“I think we have a need for (workshops) over here,” Derting said. “We get a lot of authors visiting but we don’t have a lot of conferences where kids spend the day learning craft.”
Derting gave workshops on writing suspense in books and how to develop plot. She said the students were actively engaged in her presentations, and that one benefit of Cavalcade is that it opens up students’ eyes to other books.
If you make books accessible to kids — I can’t think of anything better.
Kimberly Derting, Cavalcade of Authors West board member and author of The Body Finder series
“If you make books accessible to kids — I can’t think of anything better,” she said.
Students spend most of the day attending workshops. After, they can buy author books and get them signed. Often times students have a piece of their own writing to share after the workshops — and if not, that’s okay, too.
“We tell them, if you don’t consider yourself a writer, don’t let that hinder your involvement,” Bradley said.
Moving forward, Pierce said she wants to get more people involved with the workshop — whether that’s students, volunteers or donors.
“My hope is that we can keep growing the number of students who attend, keep offering a variety of authors and be in a financial position where we don’t have to worry about the little things,” she said.
“By and large, it’s been a good process and authors are excited to work with students,” Bradley said. “These readers and writers are going to grow up and be informed adults. If we can create this generation of readers and writers, that’s our goal.”
Cavalcade of Authors West 2017
Schools attending the event from Puyallup School District: Rogers High School, Aylen Junior High, Kalles Junior High, Ballou Junior High, Stahl Junior High
Schools attending from Sumner School District: Bonney Lake High School, Sumner High School, Lakeridge Middle School, Sumner Middle School, Mountain View Middle School