Win a 7th Generation Kindle AND a Leather Case!

Kindle Contest Meme

We’re in the final countdown, folks! The conference is only a little over a week away! (Our countdown in the sidebar counts DAYS now. Woohoo!)

We want to be sure no one who wants to be there will miss out on the awesomeness that is The Teen Writers Conference.

Plus, we want to say thanks to those teens who continue to come back, year after year.


We’ll have 3 winners:

The GRAND PRIZE winner gets a 7th Generation Kindle with a leather cover. (I KNOW!!!)

Two more winners will receive $20 vouchers to be spent AT the TWC bookstore on the day of the conference. Spend it on a TWC shirt, maybe, but definitely on books by our presenters (be sure to get them signed!). 


If you are already registered for this year’s conference, you AUTOMATICALLY get entered without lifting another finger.

If you’re not yet registered, GET registered, and BOOM, you’re entered for a chance to win. (Registration is super easy HERE or at the link on the top menu.)



NOTE: ONLY registered attendees are allowed to win. Already registered? Here are ways to get BONUS entries for a greater chance of winning one of the prizes! 

(1) Follow TWC on Instagram.

(2) LIKE this contest post on Instagram. (See the image of the Kindle in the sidebar? The same one you see at the top of this post? Click it!)

(3) TAG your Instagram friends on the contest Instagram post. There’s NO LIMIT to this way of entering! Each time you leave with friends tagged gets you another entry!

(4) REFER a friend or BE referred! You’ll note a new field in the registration form asking if you were referred by a friend. If so, simply add your friend’s name, and you BOTH get an additional entry.

If you are already registered referred, and you referred someone or were referred before, send us a note to let us know who you referred or were referred by. Just email: annette (at)  annettelyon (dot) com.

We’ll we’ll be sure you’re credited with any additional entries!

It’s EASY and FUN. (You KNOW you want to win!)


  • Spread the word about registration! We don’t have much time left!

  • GET registered.

  • Get your friends to register!

  • Follow us on Instagram

  • Like THIS post.

  • In the comments of that post, TAG your friend! (And another and another and another . . . as many as you want!)



Will be drawn randomly from all entries and announced at the conference: the $20 voucher winners as well as the grand prize winner of the Kindle with its snazzy leather cover!

Remember, you must be an attendee to win. 

Questions? Leave them in the comments.

Happy entering, and good luck! 




VERY exciting news in TWC land! 

Because the first-pages contest deadline fell on Memorial Day (and there had been some confusion about the dates, and because several attendees planning to enter didn’t realize they’d missed the deadline!):

The TWC Board has pulled out whatever magic wands they have and managed to sneak it a little more time for contest entries to still come in!

(Cue much rejoicing!)



  • If you meant to enter the first-page contest and totally forgot to, now’s your chance. 
  • If you want to get professional judges’ feedback on something YOU wrote, now’s your chance. 
  • If you want to see your own writing printed in a packet for your peers to read, this is your chance to be published!
  • If you want to win CASH prizes (!!!), now is your chance. 



  • Only attendees to the 2016 conference are eligible to enter.
  • Only one entry per attendee.
  • Entries must be the FIRST page of an original novel or short story.
  • Entries must be double spaced, Times New Roman, 12-point font.
  • Your entry must be a Word document (.doc or .docx), Rich Text document (.rtf), or PDF.
  • Your name should appear in the upper left corner.
  • Entries should be titled.
  • Entries must be fiction. No nonfiction/essays or poetry.
  • If your entry is deemed to have content not suitable for attendees, it will not be printed for distribution. You will be made aware of this in advance of the contest. Your entry will still be judged.
  • The topic: Whatever you want! Send in something you’ve already written, a piece you’re currently working on, or an entry written specifically for this contest.
  • TWC contest entries from prior years are not eligible.
  • Entries must be received by Monday, May 30th, 2016 NEW DEADLINE: Friday, June 3, at midnight, MDT.



PAY CLOSE ATTENTION to the nitty-gritty requirements. Points are awarded for the formatting details, and these contests are usually very close in final scores. Forgetting to double-space your entry can mean the difference between winning an award and just missing it by a hair.

MAKE SURE THE WORK IS ENTIRELY YOUR OWN. Plagiarized pieces are automatically disqualified, and it’s just a very, very bad thing. Be proud of your own stuff! Nobody else writes the way you do, and we want to hear what you have to say.

OFFICIALLY REGISTER FOR THE CONFERENCE BEFORE ENTERING to make sure your entry is evaluated by the judges. Only registered attendees are allowed to enter the contest.
IF YOU’VE ALREADY SUBMITTED AN ENTRY and want to replace it with another piece or an updated version, you can do that (it’s only fair to give everyone the extension!). Just be sure it the replacement entry arrives by the deadline. And for the sake of record keeping and sanity saving, please indicate in the body of the email that it’s a replacement piece. (Remember that each attendee gets just ONE entry.)



Attach your complete and properly formatted page to an email and send it to this address: AS AN ATTACHMENT.

Do NOT paste your entry into the body of the email. That will mess up your formatting and cost you points.



The Importance of Questioning

by Riah

Question Marks

I recently discovered that my main character—my first official main character, who grew from a role play, was a Mary Sue.

This is an issue. Being a Mary Sue means that the character is too perfect. And more often than not, your readers have a hard time connecting with them. Characters need flaws. It’s what makes them relatable characters, because you’re not perfect, and they’re not perfect. It seems like it could be a match made in heaven.

This is about the time I started to question her and wonder about her life. Naturally, her life won’t be flawlessly easy. Imperfect lives create conflict, which is an absolute story necessity. But when she fights off monsters and bad guys with ease and isn’t even breaking a sweat, this is where me and my writing buddy realize that we needed to remove some of the qualities that make her wonderful, and replace them with qualities that make her flawed.

Being a writer, I feel as if this character is my child, best friend, sister, and guardian angel. I have spent endless days with her by my side, and I want her to be strong enough to protect me from my nightmares from the very start. I want her to be able to look over her shoulder, give the most perfect and terrifying glare and then walk coolly away as the opposition cowers.

But that isn’t relatable. Nobody is superb without a blemish. The reason any of us connect with people in stories is because they have similar struggles. The only difference is that a lot of the conflict for the people in stories comes from the villain or other anti-hero source. In real life, conflict comes to us from bad decisions we or other people make, and the consequences come naturally.

I would like to share a couple of questions I’ve been using to help me and my character find her flaws. These kind of ride away from the typical positive questions asking you to state what your character likes. We’re gonna throw ourselves in deep, because deep conflict is what our Mary Sues need (but don’t misunderstand—while the more positive questions are important, I feel as though they’re focused on a little too much. And they’re easier to answer, and therefore are often the first to be paid attention to).

 What is their past like?

Pasts are important aspects of their story. Their past specifically helped shape who they are now. How’s their family? Is it whole or broken? Or is it twisted? What about their home? Was it safe? Or was the world more threatening than their “safe place”? Did they have friends? Did they lose any friends? How? (You can expand on all of these—not only is it fun and easy to get lost doing, answering questions gives your character depth.)

What habits have they developed that don’t help them in any way?

I’m not talking about nose picking, spitting or other gross habits that would otherwise immediately come to mind. I’m talking about knee-jerk reactions or not thinking before speaking. What situations do they find themselves only digging themselves deeper into trouble? Do they fight it or not?

A yes or no response is good. Yes is good because it’s a moment where sweat breaks out and your character realizes that reacting instinctively might not be the smartest thing. No is good because it creates embarrassment and bad first impressions (or second or third impressions).

What do they hate about themselves?

Is their inability to put their thoughts into verbal conversation? Is it blushing to the max after a certain something happens or a certain someone else walks by? What thing about themselves drives them insane, that they would trade for absolutely anything?

And most importantly: What can’t they do, no matter what?

Yes, this is different from the question right before this one. For this particular question, big is excellent, and small is good.

Some examples:

Small: No matter what I do, I can’t seem to balance on anything higher than two feet in the air.

Big: no matter what, I find it really difficult just being around people.

Note: your character’s weaknesses, and difficulty thereof, can also depend on the story and its circumstances. For instance, if your character, for one reason or another, finds it difficult to crawl, maybe include a scene where they have to crawl. Medical handicaps can also be useful throughout the story, but remember: there has to be a balance, at least by the end of your story, between what they can do well, and what they struggle with. Also, the severity of your characters’ struggles can depend on pressure of their surroundings.

What’s even more important than the question of what can’t they do is this one:

How does your character fight through their greatest weakness and fears?

This is where the most important development happens.

So whatever you do, don’t just focus on the good stuff. Dive in and find a balance that works for you and your writing. And remember that your writing style will change a couple of times as you figure out how everything fits.

See you all at the conference!


RiahI’m Riah! I’m enthusiastic about reading and writing, but am also as enthusiastic towards music and art. I’ve recently been into makeup which includes the use of prosthetics, latex, silicone, and body paint–you know, your basic movie makeup. I’m constantly reading fan fiction, when I’m not eating or putting my time into my other interests. Like trying to figure out how I got so jumpy.

Our Newsletter Has a Title!

The Teen Writers Conference newsletter needed a title, so we put out the word, asking for suggestions.

We received many submissions, then whittled them down to a small set to vote on, and in the end, the TWC Board made their decision.

And THAT means we have both a newsletter title AND a $25 prize to give to the person to suggested it.

We’ll be sending out an edition of the newsletter soon, so watch your inbox Continue reading

Starting Your Book

By Heather B. Moore, 2016 TWC Chair

Success Starts Here Freeway Style Desert Landscape

When I meet writers who are looking to get published, they often ask me how I decide where to start my story, who the characters will be, and how I plot.

So as I’m preparing to write my next book, I thought I’d give you some insight into my process.


Maybe mulling is the more correct word. I have to have the main character pretty well defined in my mind before starting to write. The secondary characters come into the story to support the main character—and sometimes they surprise even me.

Creating a Schedule

Writing, of course, is not always controlled by that effervescent muse (Annette—I’m probably using effervescent wrong). Writing is part creativity, and part science. Editing definitely falls into the science category, as well as actually completing a book. Like any writer, I’m constantly pulled in different directions. But once I decide on a book, I need to create the schedule to get it completed, and limit any other stories in my head that are trying to derail priority number 1.

Character Sketching

This is an evolving process and changes and grows as I get further into the writing process. For instance, when I write my first draft, my character motivations aren’t usually ironed out. I’m writing mostly plot and dialog. About half-way through draft 1, I’ve had to make solid decisions about my characters, so I’m adding information to my character sketches as I go. So during the 2nd draft, I’m inserting more characterization to the beginning of the book.

Point of View & Tense

I take into consideration who my audience will be and who the most important characters are. Will the story happen in real time (present tense) or past tense? Will my characters speak in first person (ideal for YA), or third person? It’s a lot of work to change this part of the process, so doing your research beforehand will save you a lot of time later.


This goes hand in hand with character sketching. I have to ask myself what is the main conflict of the book, and of each character.


Now that I have some basics going and I actually sit down to write, I usually concentrate on where I want the story to begin. Not to say that the first chapter I write will be the actual first chapter of the book, but I start pretty near the beginning. Before I start a chapter/scene, I ask myself: “What is the point of the chapter? What will be accomplished? What will it show that may/may not be relevant to the story as a whole?”

Creating a Scene

I create scenes in several phases:

Phase 1: I write, not caring too much about fleshing out the characters or the description, but I am nailing down the direction of the scene.

Phase 2: I revise the scene and insert more description, making more concrete decisions about the character.

Phase 3: This happens when the whole book is drafted and maybe new developments have happened along the way. Now have to go back through each scene to make sure the story is properly directed.

As you can see, creativity has just been replaced by careful analysis (science).

Okay, looking over this list makes me wonder why I even start a new book. Every writer has what works for them. My style might be convoluted, but you never know, it might work for you as well.

Heather Moore B&W

Heather B. Moore, the TWC 2016 Chair, is a USA Today bestseller and award-winning author of more than a dozen historical novels which are set in Ancient Arabia and Mesoamerica. Heather writes historicals and thrillers under the pen name H.B. Moore. She also writes women’s fiction, romance, and inspirational non-fiction under Heather B. Moore, including The Newport Ladies Book Club, the Amazon bestselling anthology series A Timeless Romance Anthology, the Aliso Creek series, and the USA Today bestseller Heart of the Ocean.

Just Do It!

by Kylee, Teen Committee Member

As my mother loves to tell everyone, those were my first words—”Just do it!”

When I was a small child, the popular Nike slogan had been ingrained in my brain, so they were the first coherent words that escaped my lips. Although, as we are all very well aware, “just doing” whatever “it” is is much easier said than done. Almost more so when it comes to writing!

You write consistently everyday for months and feel great, but then miss a day, then two, and then the next thing you know, it’s been a week, and you haven’t written. And you can feel it. If you’ve been writing and stop, you are most definitely going to feel it.

Writing Is Fingerprint of the Soul


Writing is a form of expression.


Everyone knows that, but very few people actually realize it. You know it’s true, but you don’t always treat it as such. If you’ve stopped writing, I know how hard it is to start again. I can never start slowly. I have to sit down, stare at the blank page as I eat a massive bowl of ice cream as my brain churns, then write for four hours straight! But slowly works for lots of people too. Write a little bit every day, write all at once—it doesn’t matter. Just write.


IMPORTANT!! I would HIGHLY recommend spilling your guts on paper before attempting to write anything else.


As creative people, we feel deeply, and things get stuck inside us. So your brain is either going all the time, or it feels empty. But you can’t write anything either way. Write about you. Write a story in first person. Feel it. All of your struggles—your character now has them. Hopes, dreams, fears . . . write it all. Take yourself on a well-deserved adventure.

She bled unspoken words from her fingers, 

Watched as they fell from the ends of her hands, 

Until the paper beneath her was smothered,

In thoughts she could not understand,

The words danced with glee on the paper,

As they worked upon forming straight lines,

They’d escaped from the cage where she’d locked them,

And jumped free of her bodies confines,

She couldn’t stop them from telling her stories,

Couldn’t hide them by biting her tongue,

So she watched with wide eyes as she shifted,

And each sentence was strung,

They told stories she’d long since forgotten,

Swept into the dustiest parts of her mind,

And stories she’d worked to keep hidden,

Ones she prayed nobody would find,

As she watched the word’s dances get slower,

And then finally come to a rest,

She felt a smile creep over her features, 

And a great weight lift off of her chest,

She’d thought that her words were all worthless,

But the paper left nowhere to hide,

And she finally noticed the beauty,

That she’d always kept bottled inside.


More Interesting in My Head

You don’t have time. I know you don’t. Nobody has time for anything. But you know how bad you want everyone to know your name as well as J.K. Rowling. Don’t lie. 😉 Everyone knows that’s exactly what you dream of in the deep dark recesses of your brain. Just admit it, ’cause DREAMING IS A GOOD THING!!! It’s okay to dream, even though it’s absolutely terrifying. Everyone is going to make fun of you cause even if you do ever manage to actually be halfway satisfied with one of those MANY stories you’ve been working on for forever, it’ll never get published. That’s way too hard. And even if it ever does actually get published, no one will ever buy it except for your Gramma, who then accidentally threw it in the fireplace because she thought it was a newspaper from 1973.


It’s okay to dream.

The last thing I’ll briefly touch on is perfectionism. You want the story to be flawless. If you edit that sucker 12,000 times, if every single word in that manuscript has changed three times, and even if it started out about time-traveling monks and is now about Rebecca dumping her boyfriend for a bull rider, you’re still gonna hate it.

Doesn’t matter.

Quit stressing. Peace out, friends! Happy writing!

Kylee Ward is a 17-year-old, fun-loving teenager who completely ADORES The Teen Writers Conference! Some of her many titles include major lover of literature, cowgirl, ballroom dancer, writer, quote addict, oldest of eight children and cosmetologist! She loves music and usually isn’t afraid to embarrass her friends (yes, there are many incidents of random song and dance, usually in aisles of grocery stores). Also, she’s apparently the only committee member who writes bios in third person.

Name Our Newsletter Contest!

The TWC newsletter began last fall, and we’re loving it! The only problem? It has no name.

That’s where our readers come in! Help us choose a name!

Email your suggestions to our blog coordinator with TWC NEWSLETTER in the subject line. Send as many title ideas as you like to this address: annette (at) annettelyon (dot) com


The person who submits the winning entry gets a $25 Amazon gift card!


The winner will be announced by the end of April. No firm date, so get your creative juices flowing soon!