Teen Author Boot Camp 2014: 3 Gates, Awesome Kids, and Jet Lagged Author

As I write this post, I’m a bit blurry eyed, tired, and my body isn’t entirely sure what time zone it’s in. However, I wanted to write this post without too much thought because I wanted to give my unedited feelings on my time at Teen Author Boot Camp.

Let me get this out of the way; I had the time of my life.

To refresh everyone’s memory, I instructed a class at a Teen Author Boot Camp on Saturday. This great conference is run by Writers Cubed, an amazing collection of ladies (read their story here) who decided to start an event for aspiring teen writers. They did me the honor of inviting me to speak at the conference.

Along with that invitation, my agent asked the group if we could reveal the People’s Choice Award winner of the 3 Gates of the Dead Filmmaker Competition, based on an adaptation of a scene or trailer of the novel. The ladies graciously agreed, and we announced the winner to a packed house.

So, who won?

First, we screened Director Stephen Cunnane’s video who submitted the top rated trailer for 3 Gates of the Dead.

Second, we screened the People’s Choice Award winner which went to Director Chad Costen for his spot-on work capturing of a scene from the novel.

Both films got a huge reaction from the teens, which surprised me. I didn’t know how well the screening  would go over, or how many would even pay attention. Not only did the whole room watch the films (including James Dashner who was signing books at the time), but they “whooped” for their favorites. After several months of working on this competition with my agent, judges, and publisher, it was fantastic to see the reaction to the contestants’ hard work.

At 9 am, I marched in with my fellow presenters (all very amazing people) and sat on stage as James Dashner entered to an excited crowd. He gave a fantastic speech on how he became a writer, pointing out that his first three books didn’t sell at all. Now, with The Maze Runner, he’d hit the stratosphere.

After his talk, I wanted to attend workshops by my fellow authors. However, I realized that my PowerPoint presentation didn’t look right. Annoyed, I spent most of the morning fixing it until my lunch meeting with a very cool dude, Richard Sharrah, founder of the Kid History Foundation and an incredibly talented actor who resembles a certain character in 3 Gates…

Richard and I ate together, discussed 3 Gates of the Dead (he loved it), future possibilities, and his own Middle Grade graphic novel. We met through Jo Schaffer (author, Geek Goes Rogue blogger, and Writers Cubed co-founder), and my agent, Italia Gandolfo. Both ladies thought we would hit it off. Yeah, I’ve got a new bud and West Coast friend. Plus, the dude is a rock star, as he took pictures with everyone who asked him.

After lunch, it was time for my seminar. Even though I taught high school a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, I was more than a bit nervous. Kids are tough because they don’t feel the need to be polite. Further, given that I was the newcomer and relatively unknown author among the presenters, I didn’t even know if anyone would show up.

Turns out, I didn’t need to worry. Almost 100 teens attended – way more than I expected. My talk was on: “How to Write a Scary Scene,” which began with a little video that I did with my buddy. Check it out.



The kids seemed to love it as they laughed in all the right places, especially the baby explosion.

When I started to talk, something seemed odd. I peered down into the crowd and noticed the teenagers were taking notes. Not only that, but not one time did anyone bring out their cell phone. That blew me away, and I loved their dedication to learning.

My presentation focused on allowing the kids to write “flash fiction” in the form of a scary scene. I chose four teens randomly and they read their work. The quality of writing was impressive, and two winners received a copy of 3 Gates of the Dead. The kids came up after I finished and had a great discussion on horror.

After my presentation, I rushed to my panel discussion on the topic of publishing. The teen audience asked questions that tested the knowledge of me and my fellow panelists.

Thankfully, I was actually able to attend a workshop by Jo Schaffer. She did a fantastic job talking about how authors really need to understand the psychology of a character. The kids ate it up and asked some good questions, which Jo handled very well.

After a great talk by Ally Condie, all of the authors sat down to sign books, t-shirts, and notebooks for the teens. To my surprise, I had a steady stream of visitors and . . . 3 Gates sold out! Plus, the kids went out of their way to tell me how much they loved my stuff.

I have to say, it was one of the best writer experiences I have had in my career to date. I loved the ladies who make up Writers Cubed, I loved my fellow presenters (special thanks to J Scott Savage, Tyler Jolley, Sara B. Larson,  Amy Jameson and Renee Collins who sat for interviews) and I loved the kids most of all. Plus, I’ve been invited back for Teen Author Boot Camp 2015. By then, I’ll have two books out in the 3 Gates series (Dark Bride comes out November 1st) as well as the first novel in my YA trilogy, Revolution of the Wolf.

Side note: The ladies of Writers Cubed orchestrate this worthy conference for youth every year on a very tight budget. They have formed a nonprofit to help cover expenses. So, potential sponsors, this means you can not only have great exposure at a major writers conference, but it is a tax write-off. You might want to consider that…



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