National Writing Project

Spotlight on Teen Ink: A Magazine Written by and for Teens

By: Art Peterson
Date: October 3, 2011

Summary: Teen Ink, called "The New Yorker for Teens," is the nation's largest publisher of teen work in print and online. Writing Project teachers and their students have been involved in Teen Ink for years. Students can submit fiction, nonfiction, poetry, book, movie and music reviews, and more. There is no charge to submit or to be published.

 

Diane Durge, a teacher-consultant with the Connecticut Writing Project, knows that writing for a real audience is powerful for students—and publishing for a real audience even more so.

"Students are hungry to get their writing out beyond the four walls of the classroom," said Durge.

One way that Durge helps her students get their pieces into the world is through the venerated magazine Teen Ink .

"The magazine encourages so many different types of writing that even the most reluctant writers are eager to participate," Durge continued.

Published by the nonprofit Young Authors Foundation, the Teen Ink magazine and website have been serving writing teachers and their students for more than two decades, providing a forum where teens can express themselves through poetry, essays, stories, reviews, art, and photographs.

Teen Ink also sponsors contests encouraging students to write about such topics as creative environmental solutions or volunteering in the community. But, unlike some magazines, Teen Ink does not sponsor these contests primarily to boost circulation, but rather to encourage the magazine's interaction with its young readers and writers.

And there is plenty of that. According to John Meyer, who along with his wife Stephanie publishes the magazine, Teen Ink receives 120,000 submissions a year. Over the years, Teen Ink has published the work of more than 55,000 teens in its printed version and the writing of hundreds of thousands of others online.

Says Meyer, "Every one of the submissions we receive is read; that's why the folks we hire to do this work need to be really fast readers."

About 3,000 of these submissions are published in the print magazine. Of the 100,000-plus others, unless they are offensive or represent only a minimum effort, there's a good chance they will make it onto the Teen Ink website, which, along with the magazine, gets over a million readers.

Something for Everybody

One of Teen Ink's rules is that writers must submit their work in a particular category—and there are many genres available in poetry and fiction.

Additionally, students with a bent toward questions like "Are you afraid of death?" can submit these discussion topics and get a dialogue going with other teens.

Teen Ink also has several categories of reviews: book reviews, movie reviews, music reviews, and college reviews.

Colleen Ruggieri, a teacher-consultant with the National Writing Project at Kent State University (OH), suggests these reviews are a good place for novice contributors to start. "Reviews are featured in every issue, so students know that the magazine is looking for this type of writing. Another great place to start is the 'feedback' column. Students can write a response to a piece they've read and it might be published in the next issue."

Interaction Is the Key

Indeed, feedback is a major piece of what both the print and the online version of Teen Ink are about.

Here's how John Meyer explains the process: "When a writer's work is selected for publication, either online or in the magazine, we let him or her know via email, and writers can opt to be informed of any responses to their piece. When the piece is posted, other writers have the opportunity to comment, and we let the writer know he or she has a comment, to which the writer can, in turn, respond."

It's not unusual for a particular piece of writing to elicit 400 comments. In its writers' guidelines Teen Ink urges commentators to be "positive and constructive." With so many users active on the site, Teen Ink employs folks whose sole job is to make sure that inappropriate material does not get through.

But one would be mistaken to assume that Teen Ink is a publication geared especially to the teenage literati. The magazine has something for everyone: there's a forum devoted to dating, love, and friendship, another on family matters, an opportunity to vote each day for one's favorite article, a section in which responders are invited to list their "five favorites" from "five favorite ideal jobs" to "five favorite perfect vacation spots."

It's not unusual for a particular piece of writing to elicit 400 comments.

And there are weekly reader polls that query teenagers on topics ranging from their opinion on the surge of troops in Afghanistan to how many minutes a day they spend getting their hair in order.

"I have my set of Teen Ink available in my classroom and I have students coming to my room to pick up copies so they can enjoy reading articles from other teens across the country," says Barbara Baltrinic, a teacher-consultant with the Kent State University Writing Project.

Baltrinic would likely agree that the reason for Teen Ink's attraction is the magazine's voice: kids talking to kids.

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