North Hosts 10th Annual Writing Conference For Students

The Sticky Notes writing conference had students from North, South, Pearl River, Nyack and Cornwall


Love filled the Clarkstown High School North library Friday afternoon, as the school hosted its 10th annual Sticky Notes Writing Conference.

The conference, which was attended by about 95 students from North, Clarkstown South, Nyack High School, Pearl River High School and Cornwall High School, featured workshops hosted by published writers, as well as North students. The conference concluded with a poetry read in the library, where students who wanted could get up in front of their peers and read their work, either written that day during the conference or written sometime earlier.

More than 20 students read at the open mic, and the biggest recurring theme throughout the performance was love, whether unrequited love, young love or love lost, learning to love one’s self or, simply, a love of movies.

“Over the years, I’ve been amazed by how confident they are with their own writing,” said Karen Czajkowski, chair of North’s English Department and an organizer of the conference. “Even the ones who maybe aren’t as confident, either in their work or in speaking in front of others, they can get up there and read because they know it’s a safe environment. They’re surrounded by their peers.”

The conference had three guest speakers, all North graduates. Adam Rubin, who writes children’s books, led a workshop on the importance of brevity and imagery. Shari Mauer, a young adult author, led a workshop on creating believable and interesting characters. Remy Maisel, who blogs for the Huffington Post, led a workshop on effectively blogging and ways to get started .

“It was great for the students to see real people, people who went to this school, who would go on to become professional writers,” Czajkowski said. “I think it showed that if you want to be a writer, you don’t have to give that up. If writing is your passion, you can do that.”

In his workshop, Rubin talked about using simple ideas, possibly from the writers’ own lives, as possible jumping off points and as places they can move away from. He also worked with them on coming up with quick one-sentence pieces. Rubin told one of the workshops he did that to make sure the students could “condense thoughts down into a more potent, distilled form.”

Maurer told one of her groups that if a character is based off someone the writer knows in real life, the writer might have an idea on what that person looks like, but the “more specific the words are the more vivid your picture will be.” Still, it will be on the reader many times to get a picture in their own mind of what characters look like.

“The magic of writing and reading is that is it’s yours to read into it and paint pictures and create worlds from the words,” she said.

There were five other workshops, all led by North students. Czajkowski said students had to apply to attend the conference, and this year they had a 100 percent acceptance rate, and students had to apply to lead workshops, with details on what they wanted to do.

“We had more students apply to lead workshops than we could accept this year, which wasn’t always the case,” Czajkowski said. “The conference has really grown, I think partly due to word of mouth amongst the students. They’re telling their friends about it and more people are participating, which is great. I’d say in years passed we’ve had an average of about 50 kids, so this is a really big turnout for us.”

The other conferences were:

  • “The Poetry of Robert Frost” led by Joan Lee
  • “Slam Is Dynamics” by Femi Popoola
  • “School of Slam” by Charissa Fajardo and Maggie Andresen
  • “Defense Against the Dark Arts” (dark poetry writing) by Andrew Korsky
  • “Confessionals” by Caitlin Wolper and Julia Cahn


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