USC Hosts Young Writers Conference for South L.A. Students this weekend

April 13, 2011

USC Neighborhood Academic Initiative and PEN USA program connects professional writers with public school students and educators

A partnership between PEN USA and the USC Neighborhood Academic Initiative, the USC Young Writers Conference will offer 45 high school students from the neighborhoods surrounding the University Park campus writing workshops and a speaker series each afternoon.
Speakers and workshop facilitators for the April 16 and 17 event on the USC University Park Campus include:

• Pulitzer Prize-winning, L.A. Weekly food critic Jonathan Gold
• Former Los Angeles Times columnist Erin Aubry Kaplan
• Los Angeles Times reporter Hector Tobar
• Award-winning author Susan Straight
• Award-winning novelist Lisa Teasley
• KPCC book and film critic David Kipen, formerly the director of the National Education Association’s Big Read.

The conference is the result of a new community program, Literature for Life, which is funded by a USC Neighborhood Outreach grant. USC staff and faculty 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 will also 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The program will attempt to fill gaps in inner city classrooms that have trouble supplying large, expensive and often outdated textbooks, said Melinda MacInnis, of the USC Neighborhood Academic Initiative.

MacInnis, a former NAI English teacher, will take part in the panel discussion “Teaching Kids Writing” during the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books at USC.

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 will also include a page for students to post their work and a blog for teachers to share ideas.

Contact: Alan House (213) 740-8606 or