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Publishing, or not, for teen writers

From my inbox, a question from a 17 year old: “I was wondering if you could give me advice on how to get things published.”

This seems like a straightforward question, but it isn’t. So I have a bunch of answers.

First, some places to send your work:

  • Scholastic Art and Writing Awards. I won one of these when I was in seventh grade. I got a dictionary. I still have it. The latest deadlines are coming up QUICK, though. Like, tomorrow. Or 1/9, in some states. So get on it.
  • Push Novel Contest. Related to the Art and Writing Awards above. The gold medal winner will get editorial help from Scholastic and the winner’s manuscript may be published.
  • Teen Ink. “Offers some of the most thoughtful and creative work generated by teens and has the largest distribution of any publication of its kind.”
  • Cicada Magazine publishes a mix of teen and adult writers. The link is to submit work for the latest creative challenge.

A couple ways to get your work out that you control yourself:

  • Make a zine. Then trade it with other folks who make zines.
  • Play in another author’s world via fanfiction and post it online. (N.B.: If you want to write fanfic about my characters, I will be very flattered, but I will not read it.)

A workshop you might be interested in, if you write science fiction, fantasy or horror:

  • Alpha. “Learn about writing and publishing. Meet other teens who share your interest in writing speculative fiction. Talk about short stories, novels, and films. Have your submission story critiqued. Brainstorm new story ideas, write a first draft, receive feedback, and rewrite. Attend readings by the authors. Do a public reading. Learn about submitting for publication, and send off your story at our manuscript mailing party.”

In case you’re thinking, “But these don’t count — I mean, like, real publishing,” let me assure you that many, many “real” writers got their start in one or more of the venues above. See also Justine Larbalestier’s essay, “Too Young To Publish,” and also her clarification.

And one more answer, related to what Justine says in her essay: Don’t be in a hurry to publish. I would not have wanted to hear this as a teen, but seriously. Trust me on this. Don’t be in a hurry. Read. Write. Live.

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