The USC Young Writers Conference, a partnership between PEN USA and the USC Neighborhood Academic Initiative, will offer writing workshops and a speaker series to 45 high school students from the neighborhoods surrounding the University Park campus.
Speakers and workshop facilitators for the April 16 and 17 event on the USC University Park campus include:
• Pulitzer Prize-winning LA Weekly food critic Jonathan Gold
• former Los Angeles Times columnist Erin Aubry Kaplan
• Times reporter Hector Tobar
• award-winning author Susan Straight
• award-winning novelist Lisa Teasley
• KPCC book and film critic David Kipen, former director of the National Education Association’s Big Read.
The conference is the result of Literature for Life, a new community program funded by a USC Neighborhood Outreach grant.
USC staff and faculty members raised $1.38 million last year that will fund more than 40 community programs.
Literature for Life introduces contemporary writers, particularly writers of color, to South Los Angeles students. The program also provides educators with free, online contemporary works of fiction, poetry, essays and news articles.
“We want to encourage the young people of South L.A. and beyond to recognize themselves in authentic literature and thus begin to better see themselves as empowered readers and writers,” said author Jervey Tervalon, the program’s founder, who grew up in South Los Angeles.
Tervalon also will be on the “Publishing as a Writer of Color” panel during the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books at USC April 30 and May 1.
The program will attempt to fill gaps in classrooms that have trouble supplying large, expensive and often outdated textbooks, said Melinda MacInnis of the USC Neighborhood Academic Initiative. MacInnis, a former English teacher, will take part in the panel discussion “Teaching Kids Writing” during the upcoming festival.
Literature for Life plans to launch an online literary magazine and teacher resource center featuring the donated works of professional writers and lesson plans tailored to exceed state standards.
The literature will focus on life in urban Los Angeles that students may be able to better relate to and that can be linked to more traditional texts. The site also will include a page for students to post their work and a blog for teachers to share ideas.