Most of us remember reading short stories when we were young adults. If you are a young adult writer, you may know that there are few places to submit shorter works like the ones we read when we were younger. The tide is changing with the help of The YA Review Network (YARN), a literary journal that aims to publishing writing for young adult readers. Kerri Smith Majors, the Editor, and Shannon Marshall, the Assistant Editor, agreed to answer a few questions about the journal. Read what they had to say, and then SUBMIT!
1. Starting a literary journal is a huge undertaking. What motivated you to create YARN?
This is something I write about in a more detail in my blog. But the nutshell version is that I started writing a short story for a YA audience, and after a search on the internet, I saw that there were very few places for YA writers to publish short works–whereas there are hundreds of venues for adult writing! I wanted to start YARN to fill that gap in the market, and to celebrate the quality and diversity of the genre. We also offer the opportunity for young writers to be published alongside established writers who contribute pieces and interviews to YARN.
2. What kind of works are you accepting submissions for?
We accept all kinds of submissions; in fact, in a few weeks we are going to publish a retelling of the “Little Red Ridinghood” fairytale. If it’s well written, imaginative, and geared toward readers of YA literature, we’ll consider it. For more on what we’re looking for, and how to submit, see our Submission Guidelines.
3. As the editors of YARN, do you have any personal preferences for submissions?
While of course all editors have their personal tastes and preferences, we try to read every submission with an open mind, thinking about audiences other than ourselves. We enjoy being surprised by writers of the YA genre with new subject matter, and new viewpoints.
4. Kerri, as a writing professor at Fairleigh Dickinson University and a YA writer, have you noticed a shift in academia attitudes toward writing YA literature?
This year, I mentored a senior honors thesis by YARN’s very own Lourdes Keochgerien, entitled “The Odyssey of the YA Label: From Ambiguity to Certainty.” It’s about how YA has historically been treated as a lesser second cousin to “real” literature, as a genre that is simplistic and moralistic, and how this has always been an unfair and untrue generalization. To support her thesis, she analyzes the explosion of complex, literary YA in the past 10 years, focusing on books like “Paper Towns” by John Green and “The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks” by E. Lockhart.
But I would say Lourdes is a trailblazer. Because YA is a genre–like mystery, or romance, or fantasy (despite that fact that YA actually encompasses all those other genres)–it is still viewed as somehow less than the gold standard of Literature-with-a-capital-L, adult literary fiction. I would add that this problem is not just within academia, but within the YA genre itself, from its very practitioners! Here are two links that Lourdes discusses in her thesis that readers might find interesting in an incendiary way: New Yorker and NPR. On the other hand, there is hope! Especially since more and more adults are starting to realize that the offerings on the YA shelves are rich and wonderful–see this article from the LA Times.
5. Shannon, you studied acting and decided to switch things up by becoming a high school English teacher. What kind of reading interests are you noticing amongst the teens you teach?
My students helped me to rediscover my love for the YA genre. And they’ve taught me to be open and appreciative of a great variety of storytelling. I keep a library in my classroom and an ongoing class blog where we all contribute notes on the books we’ve recently completed. Right now, dystopian literature is massively popular with my students, especially “The Hunger Games,” “The Uglies” series, and the Susan Beth Pfeffer “Life As We Knew It” trilogy. The “Twilight” series is still being discovered by many younger teenagers who gobble up the books at an astonishing rate and then move on to consuming anything paranormal and romantic that they can get their hands on. Realism, however, is not dead. “13 Reasons Why” by Jay Asher, “Looking for Alaska” by John Green, and “Lock and Key” by Sarah Dessen are just a few of the realistic YA novels recently circulating through my students. They appreciate and demand unflinching honesty.
6. YARN offers a unique opportunity for YA writers to submit shorter works, poetry, and essays. What kind of response has the writing community had to YARN?
So far, uniformly positive. We’ve been very pleased. In addition to excellent submissions from as yet unpublished authors, established authors such as Alisa Libby, Tina Ferraro, Susan Beth Pfeffer, Barry Lyga and Mitali Perkins have all contributed material to YARN. We’re thrilled!
7. One of your goals is to engage teen writers. Have they responded like you hoped they would?
If the high-quality teen writing we’ve received is any indication, then yes. We’re on the right track. This summer we’ll be looking for ways to reach out to more teen writers and readers.
8. YARN is your brainchild. How do you hope to see it grow over the next few years?
We’re looking forward continuing to promote literacy and celebrate the YA genre through an expanded audience and additional collaborations with writers in the YA community. We plan to reach out to the educational community as well in the hope that YARN may be a possible resource for teachers looking to promote reading and writing in their high-school classes. In addition, we’re hoping to begin to experiment with other online mediums like podcasts.
A big thanks to Kerri and Shannon for their time!
(Photos and YARN Logo are property of YARN.)