North Country Young Writers’ Festival

Save the Date! May 14-May 15, 2021

A Virtual Event Free to New Hampshire Residents

(Logo designed by Jocelyn Paradis – Gorham High School)


The North Country Young Writers’ Festival is a youth-focused, youth-driven event, from the logo (designed by a student from Gorham) to the festival workshops in creative writing (taught by college and graduate students) to the panels of readers (including New Hampshire’s Youth Poet Laureates and Poetry Ambassadors).

Hosted virtually this year by White Mountains Community College, this free festival is designed for 7th-12th students from New Hampshire with a casual interest in creative writing and also for those who are considering writing as their college major or profession.

With seven workshops on a range of topics (poetry, screenplays, short stories, flash nonfiction), a lively Submit-a-thon, readings with published authors, a chance to meet the state’s teen poet laureates (and learn how to become one), fun writing games with prizes, a marathon poem written over 48 hours, and the opportunity to join the editorial board of a new North Country student literary magazine, this festival will be a memorable experience!

Meet the high school students who dared to step on stage and memorize poems for Poetry Out Loud! Meet a Hollywood screenwriter who happens to live in Berlin, NH! Attend a reading by Brigid Kemmerer, New York Times bestselling Young Adult author! For the state’s teachers, we have a special opportunity, a Saturday workshop delivered by Penny Kittle, “Teaching Poetry to Transform Thinking About Writing.”

Find the Festival Schedule and Registration below. Priority Registration for residents of Coös County (NH); Essex County (Vermont); and Oxford County (Maine) until March 24, 2021, at which time registration will open to residents of other regions in New Hampshire.

Register here. Attend one or attend all: sign up for as many festival events as you want! Registration closes on Wednesday, May 12.

Want to become involved with the festival? Have questions? Email [email protected].


2 Exciting New Events at the Festival! The Brigid Kemmerer Book Group & Pandemic Poetry Workshop (see details below)   


Workshop for Teachers | Penny Kittle

Teaching Poetry to Transform Thinking About Writing

Poetry is big thinking in small spaces. The study of poetry teaches an attention to word craft that engages and challenges readers and writers. Poetry invites study at the word and phrase level, ignites a passionate response, and when shared, strengthens a classroom community. When we guide students to imitate writing craft and play with form, they find themselves in words. Studying poetry teaches efficiency with language, clarity of thought, and an attention to tone and pace. Come to read, write, create, and study poetry together. 

Penny Kittle teaches freshman writers at Plymouth State University in New Hampshire. She was a teacher and literacy coach in public schools for 34 years. She is the author of Book Love, and Write Beside Them, which won the James Britton award from NCTE, as well as two memoirs of teaching. She is the co-author of 180 Days: Two Teachers and the Quest to Engage and Empower Adolescents with Kelly Gallagher and also co-authored two books with her mentor, Don Graves. She is the founder and president of the Book Love Foundation, which annually gives classroom libraries to teachers throughout North America. She was given the Kent Williamson Exemplary Leadership Award from NCTE’s Conference on English Leadership and the International Literacy Association’s Thought Leader award. She works beside teachers and leaders across the world to empower young readers and writers. 


Reading and Q & A with Brigid Kemmerer

Brigid Kemmerer is the New York Times bestselling author of dark and alluring Young Adult novels like A Curse So Dark and Lonely, More Than We Can Tell, Call It What You Want, More Than We Can Tell, and Letters to the Lost, as well as the YALSA-nominated Elementals series and the Young Adult paranormal mystery Thicker Than Water. A full time writer, Brigid lives in the Baltimore area with her husband, her boys, her dog, and her cat. When she’s not writing or being a mommy, you can usually find her with her hands wrapped around a barbell. Brigid will be reading from A Curse So Dark and Lonely, the first book in the Cursebreaker Series, the book Jodi Picoult says “has everything you’d want in a retelling of a classic fairy tale” and Publishers Weekly calls “Enthralling.”

The Brigid Kemmerer Book Group:  

Are you a fan of Young Adult fiction or of Brigid Kemmerer? What better way to get ready for Brigid Kemmerer’s reading at the festival on May 15 than to spend time with fellow YA enthusiasts! This book group meets online from 6-7 PM EST on Friday, May 7. Join your host, Jennifer Puzzo, to discuss A Curse So Dark and Lonely, the first volume in Kemmerer’s Cursebreaker Series, the novel Jodi Picoult says “has everything you’d want in a retelling of a classic fairy tale” and Publishers Weekly calls “Enthralling.” Book group participants will gain special (online) back stage access to this New York Times bestselling author!  [Open to general public.] Save yourself a spot: go to the Registration link.

For more information about Brigid Kemmerer, and on Twitter and Instagram: @brigidkemmerer.


Featured Reader: Gregory L. Norris

Raised on a healthy diet of creature double features and classic SF TV, Gregory L. Norris writes regularly for short story anthologies, national magazines, and the occasional episode for TV or film, including working as a screenwriter for Paramount’s Star Trek: Voyager. Gregory novelized the NBC Made-for-TV classic by Gerry Anderson, The Day After Tomorrow: Into Infinity. His tetralogy horror film, based on his short story collection Ride Along, was optioned in 2020 by the Hollywood production company Snarkhunter LLC. Gregory lives and writes at Xanadu, a century-old house perched on a hill in New Hampshire’s North Country with his rescue cat and emerald-eyed muse. Follow his literary adventures at:



Workshops are limited to 7th-12th graders.

 Readings, panels, and performances are open to students, teachers, and community members.

 Friday, May 14, 2021

Pandemic Poetry Workshop: 4:30-5:30 PM

This workshop will help you process your pandemic experiences over the past year for possible publication in a new book, the sequel to last year’s COVID Spring: Granite State Pandemic Poems. Workshop leaders Mae Fraser and Lily Greenberg will walk you through prompts to jumpstart your COVID poems! Meet the publisher, Kirsty Walker, and the book editor, Alexandria Peary, who will offer tips on how to get published in the book. This workshop will be held online, from 4:30-5:30 PM on Friday, May 14. [Limited to students from New Hampshire] 
Save yourself a spot: go to the Registration link.

Opening Remarks: 5:45 PM 

New Hampshire Teen Poet Laureate Reading: 6-7:00 PM  

Loading Dock Live Stream Performance: 7-8:30 PM

Saturday, May 15, 2021:

9:00-9:30 AM:

Welcome from Governor Sununu,WMCC President Charles Lloyd, NH Poet Laureate Alexandria Peary, and NH Education Commissioner Edelblut.

9:30-11:00 AM

HEADLINER: Penny Kittle Teacher Workshop

Workshop A (Fiction Workshop with Via D’Agostino):  If you had the power to shape society, what changes would you make for a better tomorrow? In this fiction workshop, you’ll develop exactly that ability. Together, we will discover how to make the societal issues you care about engaging and easily understandable for readers by blending modern problems with legends and fairytales, much in the style of Red Hood, Cinder, and The Language of Thorns.

Workshop B (Poetry Workshop with Luke Harding): Poetry allows us to connect to history in a way that textbooks and documentaries have often come up short. In this workshop, we observe poetry from the major events of the past such as World War One, the global events of colonialism, and slavery, as well as the current and evolving events of the present such as the modern feminist movement, LGBTQ+ experiences, and the conversation of racial inequality. This workshop is designed to teach students how to use their voice and speak up about the world around them.

11:00-12:30 PM

The Poets’ Touchstone Reading: Hear writers from across New Hampshire read their poems published in this hallmark literary journal of the Poetry Society of New Hampshire. Meet the journal editors and participate in a Q & A.

Workshop C (Screenplay Workshop with Brooke Delp): Coming-of-Age films explore what it’s like to grow up through the eyes of a young protagonist or group of characters. Often, they are from small towns, as in Stephen King’s It and Stranger Things. One day, their average lives are turned upside down by a revelation, a piece of news, or a discovery. In this workshop, you’ll write about the North Country or a fictional New Hampshire town and leave with a logline (film summary) and the first five minutes of your own film.

Workshop D (Flash Nonfiction Workshop with Miranda Hughes): Sometimes stories are stuck in us that are too short for a longer piece: especially true with memories. What do we do with memories and experiences that lose their impact the longer we write about them? Flash nonfiction is an excellent solution! In this workshop, we write a flash nonfiction piece and practice shrinking it down to a shorter and shorter word limit.

New Hampshire Poetry Out Loud Panel: Meet seven competitors, including three state champions, of this exciting competition! Hear about their experiences presenting on the stage in New Hampshire and at the national competition in Washington, D.C., and learn memorization and performance tips from these all-stars. Learn about how you can become a competitor at the 2022 Poetry Out Loud.

1:00-2:00 PM

HEADLINER: Brigid Kemmerer Reading

2:00-3:30 PM

Gregory Norris Reading and Q & A: Hear this prolific Hollywood novelist and screenwriter from the North Country give you the inside scoop on his experiences writing for TV and movies. Gregory will read his fiction and share tips on where he finds inspiration and how he organizes his amazingly productive writing life. He’ll tell you why he thinks writing blocks are a complete myth!

Workshop E (Poetry Workshop with Lily Greenberg): “Good writers borrow, great writers steal,” T.S. Eliot famously said. Far from plagiarism, sampling is an incorporation of other bits of text into your own. And importantly, the sampled writing is always used to help generate your own writing. Think of it like taking a cut from a neighbor’s tree and using it to plant your own tree. In this workshop, we’ll try different forms of sampling, using materials such as old books, news articles, famous poems, and even each other’s writing!

Workshop F (Poetry Workshop with Hanna Seibert): Using sensory experiences that revolve around nature, tell a story about your home in the North Country or in New Hampshire through a poem. This workshop will help you create poems not only through what you’ve physically perceived (hiking, skiing/snowboarding, fishing, or meeting a wild animal up close) but also what’s inside you. There is so much to do within the peace and quiet of nature; absolute beauty can be encountered just outside our doors! This workshop will give participants a new perspective on their strengths and improve their personal courage through writing about nature.

3:30-5:00 PM

Teen Submit-a-thon:  Find the encouragement you need to take the next steps toward becoming a published teen writer! Join your hosts, Taylore Aussiker, English teacher at White Mountains Regional High School, and Makenna Allen, festival intern, as they usher your creative writing (poems, short stories, essays, etc.) into the publishing world! Send to actual literary journals, learn how to write a cover letter, and cheer on your fellow writers at this lively event.

5:00-5:30 PM

North Country Literary Magazine Editorial Board Meeting: Interested in serving as an editor at an exciting new student-run literary magazine? Don’t miss this opening meeting!

5:30-6:30 PM

Closing Ceremony & Open Mic Reading: Let’s end the festival by hearing your writing! Share work that you’ve produced during the festival or something you’ve written before this weekend! Hear excerpts from the festival poem, created by festival participants over 48 hours!


Our Team

Alexandria Peary | Festival Director/New Hampshire Poet Laureate: Alexandria Peary is the 2020 recipient of an Academy of American Poets Laureate Fellowship. She is the author of seven books, most recently The Water DraftProlific Moment: Theory and Practice of Mindfulness for Writing, and the anthology COVID Spring: Granite State Pandemic Poems. Her poetry and creative nonfiction have appeared in The New York Times, Yale Review, New American Writing, Gettysburg Review, Southern Humanities Review, and the North American Review. She specializes in mindful writing to alleviate writing anxiety and blocks. More information about her initiatives as state poet laureate can be found at her blog and on Twitter @NHPoetLaureate  She is a professor at Salem State University and lives in Londonderry, NH, with her family.

Hannah McCarthy | Festival Advisor: Hannah McCarthy is a seasoned executive and higher educational professional with 40 years of senior leadership responsibility.  Now retired she previously  lead two colleges for a combined 33 years. Additionally she  held other administrative  positions in higher education and served as CEO of a small public company. McCarthy’s commitment to higher education earned her honorary degrees from Franklin Pierce University, St. Anselm College and Newbury College as well as The Harold Hyde Award for Distinguished Educational Leadership from Plymouth State University.

John Achorn | WMCC Festival Advisor: John Achorn received his PhD in Medieval/Renaissance Studies at the University of Toronto, with a minor in Rhetoric and Composition. An English Professor at the White Mountains Community College in Northern New Hampshire, he chairs the Arts, Humanities, Communication, and Design Academic Focus Area. He loves the outdoors, particularly the mountains, rivers, and lakes, and appreciates beauty and goodness in the search for truth.


Makenna Allen | Festival Intern, White Mountains Community College (student): Makenna Allen is an eighteen-year-old aspiring high school English teacher studying at White Mountains Community College. She is a self-described literature enthusiast, a lover of art and music, and an amateur coffee connoisseur.



Via D’Agostino | Workshop Leader, University of New Hampshire, (graduate student): Via D’Agostino is a second-year student in the University of New Hampshire’s MFA Fiction Writing program and a proud Ravenclaw. She has over twenty-five works published in journals such as Hispanic Culture Review and The Rectangle, and she loves to read and write YA Fantasy. When she’s not reading or writing, she can usually be found hiking in the mountains, stargazing, or off traveling to some far-flung corner of the world—for novel research, of course.

Brooke Delp | Workshop Leader, Salem State University (graduate student): Brooke Delp is a graduate student at Salem State University in the M.A. Writing program. Brooke has published poems in literary magazines, online and in print, most recently in The Brooklyn Rail. Her recognitions include Salem State’s Award for Creativity in Art and Design. Brooke has also represented her university in the Greater Boston Intercollegiate Poetry Festival. Brooke currently serves as Assistant Managing Editor and Nonfiction Editor of Soundings East.

Lily Greenberg | Workshop Leader, University of New Hampshire, (graduate student): Lily Greenberg is a poet from Nashville, Tennessee and a third-year poetry student in the University of New Hampshire’s MFA Writing program. She works as a research writer for her university and serves as Editor-in-Chief of Barnstorm Journal. Her poetry has appeared in Third Coast Magazine, storySouthRiver Heron Review, and she is the recipient of the 2020 Dick Shea Memorial Prize in Poetry.  

Luke Harding | Workshop Leader, Plymouth State University (student): Luke Harding is a Junior at Plymouth State University majoring in English with minors in Marketing and Professional Communications. He is passionate about writing creatively and inspiring others to do so. His goal is to provide the students of the festival with the tools to continue their creative writing practices and speak up about the world around them.


Miranda Hughes | Workshop Leader, Salem State University (graduate student): Miranda Hughes is a storyteller, writer, and gamer who enjoys casual behavior analysis and deconstructing fantasy. She earned her BA in English at the University of Utah and is a graduate student at Salem State University, studying for her MA in English-Writing and the Digital Studies Certificate program. Her publications include her the short fiction pieces “The Color of Sinew,” “The Safe Space,” the interactive text adventure game Thief in the Night, with sidequests for the upcoming Beyond Skyrim: Atmora mod for The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.

Hanna Seibert | Workshop Leader White Mountains Community College (student): Hanna Seibert is a student at White Mountain Community College with a major in Liberal Arts. She will be pursuing a degree in Linguistics this fall at the University of New Hampshire. She is currently President of the White Mountain Community College Student Senate and is engaged in planning activities and contests for her fellow students and for faculty members. After college, her goals include joining the Army Reserves and earning a master’s degree in Linguistics.

Jennifer Puzzo | Event Moderator, Salem State University (student): Jennifer is studying English with a concentration in Creative Writing. She works as a writing tutor at her university’s Mary G. Walsh Writing Center and in Salem State’s Course Embedded Tutor Program. Jennifer is passionate about being creative in any way possible, whether that’s through writing poetry, watercolor painting, singing and playing the ukulele, or taking photos of nature!  


Macy (Mae) FraserEvent Moderator, Salem State University (student): Mae is a majoring in English/Creative Writing with a minor in History. When she’s not studying, she enjoys writing poetry, reading, gaming, and embroidering. Her poetry has been published with Z Publishing House, and she is currently working on her first chapbook of poetry, which has yet to be named.  


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