Nancy Sondel's Pacific Coast Children's Writers Workshop
15th Annual    September 22-24, 2017    Master Class to Masterpiece
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“I learned about the kind of feedback that editors give. All the comments
I got have helped me figure out where I want my story to go.
A very productive weekend.” — Liz, age 16


What makes an event GR8, besides fun activities and food? People! That includes international teens who love stories—reading, writing, and watching them spring to life.

Step through the TeenSpeak “portal” to discover others who share your passion: lively writing instructors, a friendly New York editor/publisher and literary agent, adults writing middle-grade and YA novels who seek feedback from you. We’ll listen to you and even pay for your expertise!

Read for yourself what teens are saying about our workshop. Below, see the teens’ staff who will inspire and guide you in this adventure.


Lauren Bjorkman, Core Writing InstructorLauren Bjorkman is the author of two humorous, multicultural YA novels: My Invented Life and Miss Fortune Cookie (Henry Holt, Inc.). Both encourage being true to yourself, no matter how tough it may be. Lauren will bring her new novel, Swim with the Sharks, to our 2016 workshop, for feedback from our New York faculty—and from you, her TeenSpeak students. Lauren grew up on a sailboat, and now lives in Taos, New Mexico, where she loves mentoring teen writers... but is far too wise to try it on her own teen-aged sons. Lauren is dominated by her cats, Zorro and Zenobia. Interview and more details to follow!


Trevor GuinaTrevor Guina, returning TeenSpeak instructor, has taught high school English and Drama in Northern California for eleven years. His Drama class participates in an annual, collaborative fine arts program where students showcase their writing. Trevor also leads a lively extra­curricular creative writing group.

Trevor’s workshop sessions include: “Build a New World” and “How Well Do You Know Your Character?” Check out descriptions of these awesome sessions. Watch for the new 2017 session, “Bring Your Antagonist-Villain to Life!” 

When not teaching, Trevor devours books, especially speculative fiction, and chases his two children and pretends to devour them, too—which they love! He’s also interested in fitness, nutrition, and (yay) fiction writing.


Sylvia PatienceSylvia Patience has published Toto’s Tale and True Chronicle of Oz (2015), as well as writing four other middle-grade novels. She has volunteered with the Young Writer’s Project, visiting local schools to help with poetry and prose projects. Sylvia’s poems are published; she has won writing scholarships and awards. A retired Nurse Practitioner, Sylvia has worked in schools, camps, and family practice. When she’s not writing, Sylvia swims, does yoga, and walks daily with her real-life Toto.

Sylvia is also a former enrollee in the TeenSpeak “parent” program, the Pacific Coast Children’s Writers Workshop. She shares her love of writing with granddaughter Luna, a six-time TeenSpeak enrollee. Luna says of the April 2016 Mentorship Retreat:

Luna“It was phenomenal. Having a comfy place by the sea to write and relax was perfect for revising, and coming up with new material! I really enjoyed the familial feel, the evenings spent talking and laughing, and the hazy early mornings. This retreat helped me to hone my work, and gave me new angles and ideas to work with. It was all awesome—a great balance of writing and revision. Definitely something I look forward to doing again!”


Jeff ArmitageJeff Armitage and his daughter, Emily, have winged their way to TeenSpeak from Texas since 2015. On first reading our previous teens’ testimonials, Jeff said, “Such energy, such crackling talent, such diversity—it’s a privilege to be part of this workshop.”

Jeff is passionate about the arts and education, devoting significant time and resources to the local arts scene, social services organizations, and church. He has been a Sunday School teacher, sleep-away summer camp counselor, and school field trip chaperone. 

Jeff Armitage and EmilyA single parent, Jeff has “read to Emily since she was born... such magical times.” He has cheered for Emily at volleyball games, Girl Scouts events, and equestrian, gymnastics, swimming and dance events. Jeff has volunteered at Emily’s school for years on the PTA and district PTA Council’s executive boards. (He was recently awarded a Texas PTA Honorary Life Membership from the PTA Council.) Now he is the PTA president at Emily’s school. She is understandably proud that he’s the first dad in that role!

With an M.A. from Harvard, Jeff has worked in real estate financial services (Washington D.C., Dallas), but in his spare time, Jeff enjoys reading, gardening, flying airplanes, and attending art galleries and museums with Emily. smiley


Jynelle La PointeJynelle La Pointe is a fun, voracious reader and nature lover. With B.A. and B.S. degrees, she has taught Outdoor Environmental Education and Science to grades K-12. She’s also Director of the New Renaissance Center, a creative arts nonprofit organization. Jynelle plays several musical instruments and jams in ethnic music. She has also taught computers.

Jynelle’s artistry is visible in her woodworking, architect jobs, and comic-book making. (Did you know? Schools are incorporating graphic novels—“long comic books”—as part of their curriculum.) Jynelle may lead an optional teen session on “How to Write Stories for Artists to Illustrate.” Expect some surprises!

Jynelle has been a coordinator for all-ages pickup soccer; she enjoys mountain biking, aikido, and gardening. She’s a cat lover and makes outrageous pumpkin pies.


Helen PyneHelen Pyne, MFA in Writing for Children and Teens, was a book editor at Doubleday and worked in public relations at Seventeen magazine. She has also authored two books in a teen mystery series (Ballantine), and is working on a new YA novel. A recent TeenSpeak instructor, Helen now mentoring students in creative, academic, and college application writing. See her interview.


Nancy SondelNancy Sondel has been an educator for 40 fun-filled years. She’s taught story- and skit-writing, music, and Spanish in California and Iowa schools, and English as a second language in Argentina and Spain. Nancy has published articles in local periodicals, Children’s Book Insider international journal, and an international pet bird magazine.

For 12 years, Nancy was founding director of a multidisciplinary arts day camp in Santa Cruz, California. She enjoys hiking, swimming, dancing, movies, and staying up practically all night.

Join us!

“If you are waiting for perfect, you’ll never make the play.”
— Joan Bauer, Squashed

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Check out our photos and enrollees’ feedback. Early Bird deadline is May 30. Register before we fill, then enjoy our September 22-24, 2017 workshop at the beach!
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