Young Authors Conference

The Young Authors Conference (lovingly, YAC) is a one-day field trip for grades 4-8 that takes place at Bethel University’s main campus. Hundreds of students spend the day learning from and writing with professional Minnesota authors. They leave with new strategies, ideas, and skills to become better writers.

Breakout sessions are engaging, interactive, and informative. A variety of topics have been offered over the years, including poetry, journalism, spoken word, short stories, memoir, playwriting, songwriting, and more. Students attend a keynote and three breakout sessions. Live music, an open mic, and a book fair keep students busy and engaged during the day. This event aligns with Minnesota Academic Standards in English Language Arts.

“It was awesome and now I want to be an author.” – 2023 YAC student


Registration fees are based on BrightWorks membership status. To find out if your school/district is a member, please see the updated membership list.

Stay tuned for information about 2024 YAC scholarship opportunities.


Brightworks Member: Early Bird $41/student
($43 after December 15, 2023)
Non-Member: Early Bird $55/student
($57 after December 15, 2023)

8:30am – 1:35pm
Bethel University,
Arden Hills


Brightworks Member: Early Bird $41/student
($43 after March 1, 2024)
Non-Member: Early Bird $55/student
($57 after March 1, 2024)

8:30am – 1:35pm
Bethel University,
Arden Hills

2024 Theme:
Celebrate Imagination

We all have an incredibly powerful tool that brings ideas to life when we read and write – our imagination! Our minds have the amazing capability of making pages of words as vivid and real as the world in front of us. Imagination is unlimited and versatile; we use it to capture a beautiful idea in a line of poetry, to imagine a realistic conversation between characters, and to visualize and understand the details of true stories and real people. At the 2024 Young Authors Conference, we will celebrate our imaginations and use them to make words come alive!

Thank you to our 2023 Keynotes!

photo of Kelly Barnhill sitting on a wooden bridge

March Keynote: Kelly Barnhill

Kelly Barnhill is an author, teacher, and mom. She has received a Newbery Medal, a World Fantasy Award, a Charlotte Huck Honor, and a McKnight Arts Fellowship and is a New York Times best seller. She is the author of the novels The Ogress and the Orphans, The Girl Who Drank the Moon, The Witch’s Boy, Iron Hearted Violet, and The Mostly True Story of Jack; in addition to essays, poetry, and a small collection of very strange nonfiction books for elementary students.

May Keynote: Anika Fajardo

Anika Fajardo was born in Colombia and raised in Minnesota. She is the author of the middle-grade novels What If a Fish, Meet Me Halfway, and Encanto: A Tale of Three Sisters, as well as a book for adults, Magical Realism for Non-Believers: A Memoir of Finding Family. When she is not writing, she teaches in Augsburg University’s MFA program. She lives with her family in the very literary city of Minneapolis.

anika fajardo

At the Young Authors Conference, students…

Are challenged and encouraged to be better writers.

Leave with new strategies, ideas, and skills to become more confident in their writing.

Learn that strong writing skills are important in life.


For more information about how your students can participate or if you are interested in presenting, contact Katie Wenzel at 612-638-1554.

white "s & P" entangled and upwards arrow

© 2023 SparkPath, Inc.

SparkPath presents its programs in collaboration with BrightWorks (formerly Metro ECSU). BrightWorks member districts/schools save 30-50% on SparkPath registration fees. For more information, visit

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