In just a few days, I will no longer be a teen writer. I’ll blow out candles—just two big ones, a “2” and a “0”—instead of the collection of candles that used to be able to fit on a cake. My family will give me a notebook and a book, the same gifts I receive every year, because I am always filling a journal, always deep in a novel. I’ll say thank you, officially parting ways with the “teen” at the end of my name.
And I’m terrified.
I’ve been a teen writer for seven years. I know its thrills: checking Scholastic Art & Writing Awards notifications with shaking hands, editing my high school literary magazine with wild gusto, waiting desperately for a call from YoungArts, and reading poetry with a voice that seemed suddenly loud. I know, too, its heartbreak: dozens of grey rejections on Submittable, a community of competitors instead of collaborators, imposter syndrome, and worst of all: the fear that once I was no longer a teenager, my writing life would be over.
A lot of my teen writing life centered around competition. Writing another story, another poem, a better one, winning another contest, submitting to another publication. And these were wonderful experiences that I’ll forever be grateful for—the encouragement, opportunities, and drive that I gained from the teen writing world cannot be understated. But it’s a world that eclipses as soon as you age out of high school. At times, I was afraid that we were all so focused on prestige that no one was reading the winning writing. No matter how many medals it earns, I think of unread stories as the loneliest things in the world. How do you build a writing life outside of competition?
When I was sixteen, I set out to find an answer to that question. As an intern for Project Write Now, I noticed the adult writers gathered to read and workshop each other’s work. These writers had an incredible bond, built on trust and truth.
I decided to start my own group for teen writers.
After months of planning, ads, and lesson plans, Teen Writing Group was born. We had a couple of rules. One, everyone had to feel comfortable and vulnerable enough to share their stories with the group. Two, no disclaimers! We wouldn’t discount ourselves or our work. We met once a week on Thursdays to talk about our projects and our aspirations, discussing line breaks while we sipped and munched on cookies. (That’s an unofficial rule: snacks are crucial to the workshopping process.) Prompts sparked inspiration. We built from each other’s work. Mostly we wrote and we wrote and we wrote, and it was joyful.
To this day, Teen Writing Group is running with new facilitators and students from all different locations. Due to the pandemic, the class went virtual, and now students can participate from all over. (Now it’s B.Y.O.T. – Bring your own tea!) This group reminded me of why I wanted to be a writer: to share my work, use my voice, and read life-changing writing. Teen Writing Group was the least lonely place in the world. It was the sort of experience that made me realize what a writer’s life could be: full of creativity and collaboration.
Now, in the time that we’re more isolated than ever, I’m excited to announce that we’re expanding the Teen Writing Group community with PWN Teen—a worldwide virtual hub offering resources, community, and inspiration for teen writers.
I’m so proud to have built this online teen writing community with an incredible team of writers, artists, and dreamers. Here, you can find writing classes, submission opportunities, and inspiring blog posts from fellow writers. There’s time for fun with writing prompts and book recs. This is a community where we unabashedly love writing. I hope you stay for a while and come back again and again to visit.
I won’t be a teen writer for much longer. But thanks to Project Write Now—thanks to community, to writing groups, to collaboration and creativity—I will always be a writer.
Welcome to PWN Teen. Come write with me.