Pen and ink


photo by Neda Kadivar

Senior Neda Kadivar plans out her ideas for her stories in her notebook.

Publishing a short story, poem, or novel is a dream many writers hope to achieve. Literary journals, prestigious writing institutions, or local writing contests provide opportunities for writers to do just that. However, publishing still remains a seemingly unattainable goal for many students. 

Sophomore Emily Hanus, senior Neda Kadivar and senior Kaitlyn Dudley have experienced this difficulty firsthand. All students in the creative writing program, Hanus, Kadivar, and Dudley, have not had their works published, but have dreams of doing so. While they might have different reasons for pursuing writing, all of them share a passion for it. 

Hanus, who has loved reading her entire life, began writing because of her seventh grade teacher. Her teacher had told her she would be a great writer, inspiring her to pursue writing outside of school. 

“It gives me a joy that I can only unlock through creativity,” Hanus said.

 So far, she has written three to four fully completed books and is currently working on a horror story called One by One.

Similarly, Dudley started writing around seventh grade, viewing writing as “an outlet for me to get some of my ideas out of my head and immerse myself in a different world.” 

Presently, Dudley is working on two fantasy novels. 

“[Fantasy is] a lot more engaging to me when I have something new to delve into and it’s a complete change from normal life,” Dudley said. 

Writers typically go through the traditional publishing process, which can take months, or even years, to finish. They write their manuscript, edit it, then research and query an agent. If an agent decides they want to work with them, the next step is to go to a publishing company. 

It goes without saying the traditional publishing road is a long and arduous one. Rejection is often a staple of the process, as it involves asking and emailing a number of agents, editors, and publishers. 

However, with the rise of the Internet, another option lies in self-publishing. An alternative to traditional publishing, self-publishing allows writers to publish their work without the use of a publishing house or company, as they tend to be extremely selective and writers face a high probability of rejection. With more freedom and flexibility, self-publishing is an appealing route for high schoolers. 

“It’s definitely an avenue I plan to explore. It would give me some financial stability and serve as an outlet for my maladaptive daydreaming,” Kadivar said. 

Nonetheless, there are some potential downsides to self-publishing, like editing your own work and the increased likelihood of lower sales. 

Senior Bella Knowles, whose work has been published, gives simple, straightforward advice.

“[Self-publishing is] a great option for younger authors who don’t have the money to go through an editor or a publisher,” Knowles said. 

Specializing in poetry, Knowles got her breakthrough in publishing through Teen Ink, a national teen magazine that showcases entirely work by teenagers. Teens ages 13-19 can submit their work through the website in a simple process. Teen Ink’s editors review each work and choose the best. These works will then be published on their website as well as in their monthly print magazine. 

Knowles’ works include Gold, a haiku, Remembrance, and Ribbons, which won Editor’s Choice. Additionally, she has won county level awards for Reflections, a nationwide contest hosted by the PTA. 

Student writers like Knowles are generally drawn to the Creative Writing class Hagerty offers as a way to pursue their passion during school hours. Creative Writing teacher Christine Forza taught Knowles last year and currently teaches Hanus, Kadivar, and Dudley. Hoping to cultivate her students’ love and skill of writing, Forza often encourages them to take a chance with their works. 

“I just feel like if everybody took their chance, they would see… they would also have the opportunity to get their writing noticed,” Forza said. 

Forza herself has also been published in a Reedsy writing contest. Reedsy, an online author services firm, hosts weekly writing contests on its website. Each contest follows the same format: writers will be given five writing prompts to choose from, others can leave feedback on their work, and Reedsy’s editors determine the winner. 

Whether her students have achieved the goal of publication, Forza wants her Creative Writing class to be a space where writers can grow and share their writing. In the past, her previous students had often come up in front of the class and shared their writing. Since it’s the beginning of the year, Forza understands that many students can be hesitant to do so. 

“I think sometimes people are a little bit scared to get their own writing out there because it’s sharing a little piece of your soul, and in this class I want people to feel more confident and comfortable with their writing,” Forza said. 

Personally, Forza sees her job as a way to keep herself updated on the lives of teenagers. 

“It goes beyond fashion, it goes beyond your slang words…it keeps me more in tune with the future,” she said.

Forza’s students add that writing has also made an impact on their personal lives. Hanus has experienced the joy writing brings, while Dudley learned how to better express her thoughts and ideas. 

“I’ve learned how to live a thousand lives. Each character, setting, and story I share is a part of me that gets to be carried on,” Kadivar said.