teen issue of Inlandia: A Literary Journey at “Literature on the Lawn,” part of Riverside’s monthly Art Walk. Several of our teen writers and artists spoke as their family, friends, and Inland Empire community member listened. It was a delightful evening of focus on teen writers and artists.
Why Focus on Teens?
Last night I was at my writers’ workshop where I was having a nonfiction piece critiqued by other adults. In my essay, I had written a few paragraphs about something I’d learned in many years as a high school English teacher and a teacher-librarian. This small bit of my essay–it was about helping teens choose books to read–ended up being the most discussed section of my piece. Why?
The adults were fascinated that I have years consistently reading young adult books, things I could keep in the catalog of my mind for later book talks, to use for suggestions when a student would ask me if I had a book with someone just like him as protagonist and hero.
“I didn’t think of that–that every student wants a book with him or herself at the center.”
Write Your Own Story
Well, of course they do. Sometimes they don’t find that book or that story or that poem, so they try to write it themselves. As Nobel winner Toni Morrison said,
- “If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”
The reason I wanted to have a teen issue for the Inlandia Journal–and this is the second annual teen issue–is that it’s a good place for teens, particularly local Inland Empire teens, to write their experiences and have those experiences read. It’s as simple as that.
I love giving the teens the opportunity to be heard, I love having teen judges who are getting their first experience as being editors. And while I hope to give teens opportunities, many in this process faced their first rejection–in fact, 75% of the submissions didn’t make it to the journal. To each person whose work was not accepted, I sent notes about what did work in their pieces, encouraging them to keep writing. I want everyone to keep striving because the fact that the pieces weren’t ready doesn’t mean that they won’t be published with a bit more work. They are simply in progress.
Thank You for Your Journey
Tonight, I want to thank all the teen editors for their work in reading the pieces. Their efforts are truly a sacrifice of time at a particularly busy point in the life of teens–the end of the school year. I want to thank all the teen writers for submitting. It’s a pleasure to feel the emotional resonance of your work, to see you writing yourself into your own story.
Congratulations on your success!
Note: If you’re interested in submitting work for the next teen issue of Inlandia, subscribe to this blog, and you will receive notification of submission dates. (Right now, that appears to be October 15, 2019-Jan. 31, 2020.)