YouthINK Offers Aspiring Teen Writers the Chance of a Lifetime

Through her newly launched, Boston-based nonprofit initiative, YouthINK, Christy Cashman is offering a trip to Ireland for some lucky teenaged writer to hone their craft in a most inspiring setting, Cashman’s own Kilkea Castle, located just outside County Kildare.

“There’s a lot of history there, and for writers, especially young writers, they can only focus on their art and their storytelling and have an experience that, in the words of [American writer] Joyce Carol Oates ‘will utterly change a young person’s life,” said Cashman, an author, actress and producer who divides her time between her family’s homes on Dartmouth Street in Back Bay and in Chatham on Cape Cod, as well as at Kilkea Castle. “Encouraging young people to be creative and use their imagination is an important step to developing the next generation of great authors.”

YouthINK is holding a short-story writing competition for young people worldwide, ages 13 to 18, and accepting submissions of a short story or an essay of no more than 3,000 words pertaining to nature and/or animals. The deadline has been extended to Dec 31. Visit to submit an entry or for more information.

The winner, and their parent or guardian, will receive an all-expenses paid trip to Kilkea Castle, where they will attend a three-day creative workshop that includes music, paintings, sculpture and a culinary experience – all attended and facilitated by notable authors and other creative luminaries.

The contest’s runner-up will be invited to a one-day, remote workshop a creative writing workshop hosted by GrubStreet, a Boston-based nonprofit writing center.

Cashman has hand-picked a group of esteemed authors, musicians, film-makers, actors and artists to judge the entries, including New York Times-bestselling author Andre Dubus III; award-winning Irish author Colum McCann; bestselling authors Tom Perrotta and Arthur Vanderbilt; Emmy award-winning producer and journalist Lisa Pierpont; business strategist and bestselling author, filmmaker and director Michael Mailer; musician and artist Sally Taylor; columnist and novelist Jonathan Soroff; literary agent Lucy Cleland; casting agent Angela Peri; and writer and editor Louise Piantedosi.

As for Cashman, she had previously visited Ireland to go horseback riding in her 20s, but her husband, who is half Irish, had never visited the country, so at her urging, the couple was married at Adare Castle in County Limerick. During their stay in Ireland, Cashman said she went horseback riding during the days while her husband went out looking for a castle for them to buy, and she said,  “Low and behold, around 15 years later, he bought a castle.”

Cashman said they “didn’t do much with it for a few years” until they renovated the building, which dates back to 1180, and converted it back into a hotel, with two restaurants, which opened in October of 2018.

Kilkea Castle also served as the setting for the retreat and workshop for GrubStreet’s board of directors one year. (Cashman started taking classes at GrubStreet in 2013 and went on to serve on the organization’s board was for nine years, just finishing up her last term a coupe of weeks ago.)

“It gave me the idea that everyone loves being on the property because it’s so historic,” Cashman said of the experience that paved the way for YouthINK. “We wanted to create an annual writer’s retreat to encourage a young person who might not ordinarily think of themself as a writer to submit something.”

And while YouthINK is now just a fledgling initiative, Cashman anticipates a long future ahead for it.

“Even though, it’s in its infant stages, it’s my favorite organization I’m involved with and something I want to do for the rest of my life,” she said.

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