There are so many reasons we love Alpha. It’s not just that it makes successful writers out of talented teenagers, although we all learn a lot about stories, plots, character arcs, dedication, even about where to send our work. It isn’t even just the ten days at the workshop, though those are full of learning and new friendships, serious author lectures and quiet time to write and games of Ultimate Frisbee.
Alpha, the experience, continues long past when we leave the University of Pittsburgh campus. The Alpha alumni have a critique group where they edit each other’s work, talk about ideas, support each other, encourage each other to keep writing. Those connections have kept me writing and have kept improving my work in the years since I was last an Alpha student. Even beyond that, some of my closest friends, the ones I talk to the most, the ones who support me when times get rough – they’re people I met at Alpha. I was lucky, going into Alpha – I had fun, nerdy, friends who liked reading and liked learning. I know a lot of people who didn’t. But what I didn’t have was people who fundamentally got me. Even before the workshop started, talking online to the other writers, I remember this giddy feeling of disbelief – these people understand me. They’re fun and smart and they think about stories the same way I do, and even though they’re the coolest people I’ve ever met, they still think I’m worth spending time with. Staff members and authors who wrote brilliant pieces and gave brilliant lectures thought I should take my writing seriously. That was an unbelievable gift as a teenager whose freshman year English teacher had told her parents she “wasn’t really a writer, was she?”
So yes, meeting Tamora Pierce, whom I worshiped, was a dream come true, and yes, playing Ultimate Frisbee was a ton of fun and yes, I learned to write and edit and critique better than I’d ever learned before. But I also learned to take myself, and my writing, seriously, and I made friendships that have lasted me a lifetime.
Alpha tries incredibly hard to keep costs low, with an all-volunteer staff and tremendous alumni support – but there are plenty of teens who deserve the sort of life-changing summer I had, that we had. Every year we need about $3,000 for scholarships for students, and so for the past several years the alumni have been putting together donations drives trying to keep operating costs low and scholarships feasible.
This year, we’re holding an auction as part of our fundraiser, and offering an e-book anthology of stories written, collected, and illustrated by Alpha alumni. We’re auctioning off donations from Tamora Pierce, John Joseph Adams, George R. R. Martin, Ellen Kushner, Patrick Rothfuss, Theodora Goss, Karen Healey, and many other brilliant authors and editors. Those with winning bids, and anyone who donates any amount, at any time during the fundraiser, will get a copy of the anthology and, of course, our undying gratitude.
So take a look at the fabulous prizes, and bid if you like them, and think about donating just because there are teens all over the world (and we’ve had them from as far away as New Zealand) who could use something like Alpha in their lives. And based on the work I’ve seen come out of it, I think the world could use their stories, too.