I hope everyone is doing well – we’re still social-distancing where I live (or at least, we should be…if anyone on the Jersey Shore is reading this, stay home! Do not go to your best friend’s birthday party! They will still be that age, for like, another 364 days! Have a weird Zoom party where one relative can’t figure out how to unmute themselves like the rest of us!)
I’ve been spending most of my time writing. Well, actually, I’ve been spending most of my time Yearning. Mostly I yearn for a world in which I own a cute coastal cottage in Maine, spend my mornings sipping chai tea in cafes, and bike to the local library in the afternoon; of course, my tiny-yet-not-yappy mini poodle sits in the bike basket. So, Zillow. I’ve been spending most of my time looking at homes I cannot afford on Zillow.
But OTHER than Zillow, I’ve been spending most of my time writing and doing writing-adjacent activities, so I thought it might be fun to round up some of the best resources for other teen writers. (This sentence implies I am still a teen writer, but I admit I am sort of an interloper? I turned nineteen last month, which technically still has the word teen in it, but I’m also in college. Let’s just roll with it, though, because right now thinking about the future makes me want to break into hives, unless that future involves a quaint and charming house in Maine. Then we can talk.)
Without further ado:
The incredible Yejin Suh has compiled a complete list of competitions, publications, and programs for teen writers, and she’s given me permission to share it with you all. You can read the full list HERE, but I’d particularly recommend checking out YoungArts, the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, and the Ideate Review – I’m the prose editor over at that magazine. 🙂
Virtual Classes with Project Write Now
Oh my god, where do I begin with Project Write Now? This organization is so fundamental for me. I’ve been a part of Project Write Now since I was fourteen, and I’ve found most of my writing mentors and friends here. Almost all my writing ideas started in a Project Write Now class – there’s no place that inspires me more. It’s given me words, voice, and above all, community.
Usually I can only recommend Project Write Now to locals, but I’m so excited to say that PWN has recently launched virtual classes for teens – and I’m teaching one of them!
There’s the screenplay-incubator, a teen poetry class, a class for all genres, and my class. Fridays With Vivian! It’s on Fridays from 2:00 to 2:45 EST, but since it’s virtual, anyone can sign up. (It’s okay to join part-way through, and you can also drop in for a session.)
Here’s the class description:
Join teen author Vivian DeRosa as she shares her inner world: what she’s been reading, the ins-and-outs of her writing process, and everything that’s shaped the way she thinks about stories. Learn more about life as a (teen) writer, from building a platform to actually finishing a writing project, and practice viewing the world through writers’ eyes: what can Doja Cat teach us about word play? How do you find your own style? Make yourself a cup of tea and join our community as we explore the possibilities of storytelling—and leave inspired to write.
I’d love to see you and talk about all things writing. You can learn more and register HERE. (You can also apply for a scholarship seat at Project Write Now’s website.) I also can’t recommend the other classes enough. PWN really shaped me into the writer – and person – I am today.
Virtual Book And Writing Conferences
Bad news: a lot of writing and book conferences had to be cancelled. Good news: some of them have moved online – and now they’re free! You can see authors like Angie Thomas and Carmen Maria Machado (writing those two names gave me heart palpitations) at BookConline. Poets & Writers now posts virtual events on their literary calendar. My VLF is an ongoing online literary festival. Get some writing advice from your favorite authors and discover your next best read.
Edit for Polyphony Lit
Being an editor at literary magazines has made me a better writer. I learned the nitty and gritty of revisions, and how to give – and take – critique. You can apply for editing positions at many literary magazines, but I recommend Polyphony Lit because the editors get edits! The staff at Polyphony will help you write revision suggestions with tact and specificity. I was a senior when I discovered them, so I was only able to edit for a year, but it was a really gratifying experience. You can apply HERE.
Read them. Read them. Read them. This is my first piece of writing advice to any writer ever! Books will make you a better writer. Books will make you a better human. If you’re not reading, how do you even know how words work?! Read everything. Read poems and magazines and instructions and signs and mysteries and thrillers and classics and children’s lit and new releases and all-but-forgotten-novels-that-you-found-in-your-aunt’s-garage. Read everything. If you’re looking for books about writing, check out my list of craft books HERE.
Surprise! It’s the resource teen writers probably receive the most of! Unsolicited advice! I’m sorry to add to the tradition of opinions-about-your-career-that-no-one-asked-for, so I’ll keep it brief, but just keep these things in mind:
Competitions do not determine your worth – or your career. In the Teen Writing World™, competitions and publications feel very important. And don’t get me wrong – participating in a few of these programs gave me some good-old-validation, and opportunities that I’m still grateful for. If you win them, great. But it’s SO subjective. I submitted the same story to multiple competitions and received wildly different responses. Don’t put too much stake in this.
If you do not win any keys from the Scholastic Arts and Writing Awards, you are still a writer. Promise. Writing is not gymnastics: if you haven’t “made it” by 18, you’re not out. In fact, writing really is a long-haul gig. You’re only going to get better with more reading and practice. Remember that. You probably started writing because you liked it. You can do this for your entire life; don’t stress so much that you burn out by 18.
That being said: don’t be afraid to apply to things, especially if you love having your work read. (Like me. Being read is simply the best – I feel known.) If you don’t apply, your writing will be sitting in your Google Drive. If you apply and get rejected, your writing will be sitting in your Google Drive. You’ve got nothing to lose.
Good luck. I believe in all of you. The world needs your voice and your words.
Teen writers: I cannot wait to read your work.
Thanks for reading! What’s your favorite writing resource? Let me know in the comments! Until next time, you can find me on Pinterest or Instagram.