CCA Hosts 7th Annual Writer’s Conference

Canyon Crest Academy’s Creative Writing Club will host its seventh annual Writers’ Conference on Saturday, Feb. 24 at Canyon Crest Academy from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. According to club co-president Sophie Camilleri, the conference is exclusively for high school students. The club has sponsors and holds fundraisers throughout the year to ensure everyone can attend the conference for free.

“[This conference] is the only free writers’ conference for high school students in the country,” Camilleri said. “We are very thankful to have CCA administration and CCA ASB support us to hold this event every year.”

This year, 24 speakers will be at the conference, most of them authors, but also screenwriters, directors, songwriters, publishers, poets and journalists. Author Elana K. Arnold will be the keynote speaker at the conference, whose speech, “The Transformative Power of Art: Radical Truth Telling in Fiction,” will focus on drawing on one’s past to write fictional stories.

“In about 45 minutes, I will explore the elements of my personal history that informed the writing of my novel ‘What Girls Are Made Of,’” Arnold said. “In addition to discussing my own past, I’ll be exploring how creators at-large transform their pain into art.”

Arnold hopes her speech will inspire other writers to use their own experience as inspiration for their own fictional work.

“I hope attendees will leave the talk with a better understanding of how a writer can craft fiction from real-life experience and may feel empowered to explore their own dark wells in a search for artistic fodder,” Arnold said.

According to Camilleri, other speakers that CCA’s Creative Writing Club anticipates to draw large audiences are CEO of Hamilton College Consulting Chris Hamilton and runner-up on the eighth season of America’s Got Talent and TPHS alumnus Taylor Williamson (‘04). 

“We have Chris Hamilton presenting his very popular presentation on college essay writing, and are excited to have TP [alumna] Williamson as our inspirational speaker,” Camilleri said. 

Author, screenwriter and producer Abdi Nazemian is also excited to speak at the conference and engage the student attendees. 

“The name of my 45-minute workshop is ‘Movie, Book, Play, TV? How to Decide What Your Story is Meant To Be, and Write in Multiple Mediums,’” Nazemian said. “I’m very excited, as each of these mediums has given me different opportunities for storytelling. I plan on discussing the creative and market forces that led me to hop across mediums and to engage students in a workshop that explores the unique challenges and opportunities each medium provides.”

According to Camilleri, the conference will follow the same format as previous conferences with Keynote Speaker Arnold giving the first talk of the day and different presentations available for attendees in the morning. The club will host hands-on workshops in the afternoon and Williamson will close the conference with an inspirational talk. The conference organizers like to invite different speakers each year to “make things interesting for returning attendees.” This year, a panel of authors will be discussing writing books that feature LGBTQ themes and characters and how to handle such subjects appropriately as writers.

“We have an LGBT panel that will be discussing the influences of their characters in writing,” co-president of CCA’s Creative Writing Club Prisha Kukkal said. “This has not been done in previous years, and we are happy to have them speaking at the conference this year.”

Co-president Claire Lee (12) hopes students will attend the conference and take advantage of the various opportunities to learn from the numerous established authors and interact with other students from around San Diego also passionate about various genres of writing.

“The Writers’ Conference provides students an opportunity to learn from established writers and professionals in the publishing industry and connect with their peers through their mutual art form: writing,” Lee said. “I hope the students who attend the conference become exposed to a variety of different writing fields … because the Writers’ Conference provides that wide array of speakers. But above all, I hope students come out of the conference feeling inspired with their writing.”

This year’s conference was primarily organized organized by the three co-presidents of the Creative Writing Club, Camilleri, Kukkal and Lee, who began planning the conference in August. Two hundred and twenty students from 24 high schools in San Diego County attended last year’s conference, which is the maximum number of attendees allowed, and Camilleri predicts this year will likely see a similar number of attendees.

“We have capped our numbers at 220 attendees, and we tend to hit this number most years,” Camilleri said. “We may be able to accommodate more [students] closer to the day, depending on funding.”

Those interested in attending the conference should register at the conference’s website,, to choose which sessions they would like to attend as well as to secure a free lunch and seats in each sessions.

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