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This episode celebrates youth writing, art, editing, and publication. Laura is joined by Alex Ashbrook, a teaching artist with the nonprofit Lake Erie Ink, along with Anna Lucia and Alba Cristina Del Rio Ochoa, two members of the Teen Book Project editorial board. Anna and Alba Cristina discuss their vision for the Teen Book Project, how youth across Northeast Ohio can submit to the anthology or get involved, skills they’re gaining from their work with the editorial board, and what they each love most about writing and art.
Lake Erie Ink will accept submissions from youth in Northeast Ohio for the Some Thing To Say anthology until December 31, 2023. Learn more about the Teen Book Project and how to submit at the Lake Erie Ink website, and follow The Teen Book Project on Instagram.
In this episode:
- Lake Erie Ink
- Amy Rosenbluth
- Thurber House
- 826 Valencia
- Mystery & Memory with Katharine Beutner
- Blur: A Collection of Writing by Cleveland Teens
- Stirring Stories: A Creative Community Cookbook
- Arroz con leche
- Cleveland Museum of Art
Alba Cristina (00:00): We're still kids. We're not making executive life decisions yet. So I think we're good. Laura Maylene Walter (00:09): Welcome to Page Count, presented by the Ohio Center for the Book at Cleveland Public Library. This podcast celebrates authors, illustrators, librarians, booksellers, literary advocates, and readers in and from the state of Ohio. Laura Maylene Walter (00:26): I'm Laura Maylene Walter, the Ohio Center for the Book Fellow and author of the novel BODY OF STARS. Today we're talking about teen writing programs and publication with three guests from Lake Erie Ink A writing space for youth located here in Cleveland. We're joined by Alex Ashbrook, a teaching artist at Lake Erie Ink, along with two members of the organization's teen editorial board, Anna Lucia and Alba Cristina. Hi, everyone. Welcome to Page Count and thank you so much for being here. Alex, let's start with you as a teaching artist. Can you tell us a little bit about Lake Erie Ink, about the organization and also about this Teen Book Project, which is what we're here to discuss today? Alex Ashbrook (01:11): Absolutely. And first off, thank you for having us here and helping us get the word out. We really appreciate it. So this is our eighth Teen Book Project at Lake Erie Ink. Lake Erie Ink Is a northeast Ohio organization that helps youth around northeast Ohio find their creative voice. And so one of the programs that we run is the Teen Book Project. This is our eighth year. We have a new concept and we're taking some new approaches. The project really came out of a visit to the Thurber House that our executive director Amy Rosenbluth had about 10 years ago. They do a teen anthology but they do it a little bit differently. They fill their editorial board with teens rather than a adult editors. And she really liked the way that it empowered teens from the early conceptual stages of the journal all the way to publishing. So with a little help from Belt Magazine and the 826 Valencia movement, the Teen Book Project was born at Lake Erie Ink. So this year we have, I think at the moment six or seven teens on our editorial board and we are in the early stages. We've got our theme for this year. We're putting together some guidelines and we're getting ready for that November 1st submission date. Laura Maylene Walter (02:22): Excellent. Yeah, so listeners, you're hearing this in November, which means applications should be open by the time you hear this episode and likely open through the end of the year. So we'll definitely be talking about that and how people can submit. Can you tell us a little bit, Alex, about the teen editorial board, what are the requirements? Are there age limits? Are there location limits? Is this for teens in Cleveland? Can you just talk a bit about where your teens come from and who they usually represent? Alex Ashbrook (02:51): Yeah, all the teens in our editorial border from Northeast Ohio, we take pride in in the fact that we represent this region. They are of all ages. We usually will accept anybody who's interested in not only fiction and poetry but those who are interested in the editorial process, interested in publishing, interested in social media outreach. We really try to assign different aspects of the project to those who are interested in those sort of corners of the process. We still are accepting editors if someone would like to come on a little bit later in the process, but I feel like the group that we have now is doing a really great job. Early on in the stages here. We meet every Wednesday over Zoom and then we meet once in a while in person and we do all kinds of stuff during our meeting. With the focus of just trying to make this book the best product that it could be in the end. Laura Maylene Walter (03:40): That's really fantastic. You know, we just had an episode with author Kate Butner who had been in Cleveland the time her last book came out. But it's really funny. She and I actually went to high school together back in Pennsylvania. It's just kind of a random coincidence and we were both editors on the lit mag at our high school and so I know what it's like to be a teen editor and to really have fun with it and really enjoy it. I'll look to that episode so listeners can hear older writers <laugh> talking about their teen years. But this is kind of a concept near and dear to my heart I would say. And I guess I should say is full disclosure, I think it was two or three years ago I wrote the foreword for the Teen Book Project when your theme was Blur. All right, Anna and Alba, can you start by telling us a bit about yourselves? Anna Lucia (04:28): I'm Anna. I am a junior at Ohio Virtual Academy and I'm born and raised in Cleveland. Alba Cristina (04:34): I'm Alba Cristina and I'm in sixth grade at Hudson Montessori School and I'm 12 years old. Laura Maylene Walter (04:41): That's great. And Alex, you had mentioned that you have a a new concept this year. I'm curious about this new concept. Alex Ashbrook (04:48): Sure. Anna Cristina, would you like to talk about our concept that we developed? Alba Cristina (04:53): The theme of the anthology is Something to Say. It was originally going to be, "I have something to tell you," all secrety. Anna Lucia (05:02): It was originally Secrets but our goal throughout all of this has really been to make it as inclusionary as possible and not directed towards a specific emotion. And we thought that "secrets" kind of links a negative emotion a little bit. So we changed it to just Something to Say, which is some of the prompts. I don't fully remember all the prompts, but it was someone has found their voice, what do they have to say? Kind of these question bearing prompts that make you think a little and are a little more broad than just secrets. So it's been really cool to try to figure that out and interpret what people may think of it or may not think of it or how other people will take it. Alba Cristina (05:49): I think it's very broad, like you can take this in all sorts of different directions. So that like brings us all the worlds of like writers, I guess young writers so they can all write even though like there's this theme is so broad. That's what I like about it. I'm kind of glad we switched it from all Secrets to Something to Say. Laura Maylene Walter (06:11): Yeah, I really like that. And you're right, it's broad in a good sense because it won't cut anyone off or maybe limit creativity, but it also is providing some kind of a stream for writers to focus on. And yeah, it's a really good point that secrets could have perhaps a negative connotation or secrets is about something that is hidden or should be hidden versus maybe I have something inside of me that it's time to go out there and say it. It seems a little more proactive or positive in a way which I think is perfect for this kind of anthology. So I think that's great. Well I would love to hear a bit about how each of you became involved on the teen editorial board. So Anna, we can just start with you. Can you tell us how long you've been involved, how you got involved and why you wanted to get involved with Lake Erie Inc? Anna Lucia (06:59): I actually got involved because of Alex <laugh>. Alex did a writer's talk at the Cleveland Museum of Art when I was in an art program there and we actually just figured this out because I didn't even know that it was him until recently <laugh> that was right around the time that they were accepting submissions last year. So it was shared with our group about the publication of this book and we were encouraged to sign up. So I submitted work for the last book and then at the launch we were asked if anyone was interested in being an editor for this book. So that's when I got involved with the editorial board and just Lake Erie Ink in general. Laura Maylene Walter (07:39): And Alba, what about you? Alba Cristina (07:40): A few months, almost a year ago, my school teacher, her name is Hannah Irvine, she was giving us like a flyer about the community cookbook and I was like, huh. So that led to getting one of my recipes published by Lake Erie Ink, and then I went to their novel camp last summer and then from the novel camp they told us that this was an option and I will decided hey, I'm gonna try it. So here I am. Laura Maylene Walter (08:06): I love how your answer just shows organically the different opportunities people have at Lake Erie Ink because you had a novel camp and a recipe or a cookbook publication project. Can you share what kind of recipe you submitted? Alba Cristina (08:19): I'm a Latin American heritage, so I did arroz con leche, which is like a rice pudding thing. I'm pretty sure there's somewhere in the book, it's called Stirring Stories. So yeah. Laura Maylene Walter (08:30): That sounds amazing. I like that. Did you guys have like a launch party where everyone cooked what they made <laugh>? Alba Cristina (08:37): I sure wish we did. I just sent my recipe in my drawing and that was that. Laura Maylene Walter (08:41): Well tell me about, as you start accepting submissions for the latest Teen Book Project on this theme, tell me about what kind of things you're looking for. What kind of artwork, what kind of writing do you wanna see? What kinds of things are you accepting? Alba Cristina (08:59): I'm thinking anything as long as it's got a string related to the topic. If it's like a drawing, it's fine as long as it can be printed on paper is my only requirement. It can be a drawing, it can be poetry, just, I'm pretty sure we have a page limit though. But I want anything that can be printed on paper and is within our requirements, I will accept it. Anna Lucia (09:25): I'm a poet, that's like my main thing. So I'm always interested in hearing other people's poetry. I think it's so insightful to like hear other writers' rendition of something, but I get more into the things that I'm not so familiar with. I'm not really familiar with flash fiction, which is something that we accept. I'm excited to read some of those. We do accept artwork. I'm also an artist so I'm very interested to see how people interpret the theme in whatever medium that their mind goes to in different forms of art. Laura Maylene Walter (09:55): Well you've both mentioned some of the work that you might do; you've mentioned recipes, drawings and poetry. I'm just curious to hear from both of you what draws you to these kinds of creative pursuits? You're involved with Lake Erie Ink so you're clearly passionate about it. What do you like about drawing or writing poetry or writing anything else? Anna Lucia (10:17): I actually just got asked this in another writing program and I just love human connection and I think writing and art is such a cool way of human connection and hearing someone's thoughts on something that you probably wouldn't hear otherwise. Art for me is putting something into an image that maybe you can't quite put into words and that's kind of why I love that we include both art and writing because not everything can be put into words. So writing for me is just that human connection and a really cool way of human connection and hearing someone else's thoughts and feelings. It's just cool. I don't... <Laugh> like humans are cool. Humans are cool. Laura Maylene Walter (11:00): <Laugh> Yeah. Alba Cristina (11:02): I feel like it's like a free colorful way to like express myself. I'm a very wordy person but I have a very good hand when it comes to drawing. Personally I think drawing is like this whole other lifestyle, it's free, and forget about all of your worries and problems and stuff and you can totally escape into your whole thing even though it takes lots of practice. I think drawing's always been like the, I have so many things going on, I'm just gonna draw something. I think it's always been like that kind of refuge and writing is just really free for me. I feel like I can be myself and no one's gonna criticize it. I can like think out loud and write it down and then other people can read it and agree or disagree and then that'll bring up very distinct conversations. So I like that. Laura Maylene Walter (11:51): You're making me so excited. I wanna go write like I just wanna go sit down and write because you're so right everything you said and I love that writing is something very free for you. So I think that's fantastic. And while I'm asking this question, if I can throw it back to you Alex, about how and why you got involved with Lake Erie Ink You teach writing locally, you know, what does this mean to you being involved in this kind of project? Alex Ashbrook (12:15): Well one unique thing about the Teen Book Project at Lake Erie Ink is that we don't reject submissions. So it feels like a really productive and open space for people who maybe haven't submitted their work before or maybe are a little bit nervous to share their creative voice. We accept everything that we get submitted to our journals so there is a round of feedback that we do. It's part of our publication process. I was really drawn to that kind of openness and I think I would really have loved to have that resource at this age. And I think the further you get into the Creative Life's kind of style after college, after high school, there is a lot of of those walls that are built up. So if, if we can give them a space where those walls don't exist, I think just the inspiration and the feeling of having a work published will go a long way and hopefully set them on a path of not being fearful of sharing their creative work. Alex Ashbrook (13:08): I love teaching in general. I love the classroom space, the workshop space. I love how collaborative it can be, especially if you're a writer who doesn't get a lot of that collaboration elsewhere. It's such an independent self-driven act writing and, and you have your office and you sit in there and you work on your project. So the collaboration of it really excites me. And yeah, I just love being surrounded by creative people. I think one thing I love about Lake Erie Ink is how collaborative it is and how much community outreach that we provided, how much we get back from the community. You said yourself, Laura, that you provided the foreword for our book a couple years ago, and fantastic artists in the community like yourself, it's just cool to tie it all together. We do events at Mac's Backs, we sell the anthology at Mac's Backs, which is hands down my favorite bookstore in the city, and we work with Cleveland State University and we work with writers and residents. So it's just really cool to see how the community sort of supports the arts and if I can be part of that at all, it just feels really great. Laura Maylene Walter (14:12): Yeah, it is so wonderful how this organization is woven into the larger literary community in Cleveland. I did teach one session at the young writers Conference back in, when was that? June, May. But it was in a beautiful building on the CSU campus and it was just wonderful. Really well attended. So anyway, I'm going on and on how great it is, but now I'm thinking about this anthology and that you accept the pieces. So I'm just thinking writing without rejection and how nice that is. <Laugh> Yeah. And how wonderful. Well let's talk about kind of the nitty gritty of who can submit their writing. So Anna and Alba, can you, do you have certain guidelines of who is able to send in their work? Any age limits? Do they have to be in northeast Ohio? Give me the details on that. Anna Lucia (15:03): I'm pretty sure it is just teens, like the broad term I think it is mainly northeast Ohio Cleveland surrounding area. But other than that, like the pride of it is that we don't say no to anyone. As long as you're in the area and you're a young adult, go at it. You don't even have to be a writer, just submit something Alba Cristina (15:25): As Anna said, anyone if you're a writer. But I'd like to say that I'm not a teen quite yet. I'm still a kid but I think sixth grade to senior year would be my guide, like my dome overarching guideline here so it doesn't get too old. But then it doesn't get, I mean sure I wouldn't reject if we got like five fifth graders or three to five college students. Sure I wouldn't reject them. But I just feel like sixth grade to senior year of high school is my thing. I'm thinking of attracting all sorts of people. If you're a poet, if you're an author, if you're an artist and it's like you can like mash them all together in one big book. The audience I'm trying to target here, open-minded people who are willing to learn more to see more and try new things 'cause that's originally how I got here. I mean I'm not much of a writer but still trying new things. That's the type of people I want. Laura Maylene Walter (16:30): Amazing. Yes. And so the spirit of it is around sixth through 12th grade. So you're going to be taking submissions, you're going to be reading them, you're going to offer some feedback to the writers or artists perhaps who submitted what else will go into this journal. What other skills do you hope to gain or suspect you'll gain? I know Anna, you had told me off air that you were doing the social media. So can you talk about some of the other aspects besides accepting submissions that go into this journal? Anna Lucia (17:01): I'd say just in general working with a collective mind on things because a group of teenagers is not always going to agree on things. We've done many votes on things where we've been split and have had to debate it out. What wins And you've kind of learned these graces of working in a group and respecting people's opinions and it, it's not that you didn't respect people's opinion before but maybe you've never had to do this sort of thing where at every turn someone you know disagrees with you or thinks this would be better than this or things that, that idea is kind of like not fitting for this. You learn a lot of skills of working in a group and collectively agreeing on things. It's almost like a group project in school where you know, this person wanted to do this and this person wanted do this and it's not always easy to get a group of teenagers to agree on something. So those skills are really important and I think that so far, even just in the two months we've been meeting, I think those skills have already grown. Just the social aspect in general of learning new things about this world. I mean I didn't really know anything about the editing world before I started this and you know, we're only a couple months in <laugh>. Laura Maylene Walter (18:21): Could you maybe give an example if you're willing to share, of one of the things you tried to vote on that you weren't necessarily all agreeing on? I'm curious. Anna Lucia (18:29): The first thing that comes to mind was when we were designing the poster, I think we had like close to 10 different ideas and we got down to two which already that was like a whole meetings process of like getting those down. And then we were down to two and I think we had four kids in that meeting and two, one of one and two one of the other. So like one person from each side like debated <laugh> the other and we ended on one. So it happens, it happens. <Laugh> Alba Cristina (19:02): I got to talk, as Anna said, with a lot of different people from ages above me and I talk like a lot of different perspective. And I mean outside of that I was talking to my friends about it and they're like, well so what's the purpose of this? So that, that really got me thinking, well what is the purpose of this? And I think I understand that the purpose of this is to give voice to everyone else who like without shame or fear or anything of that. As Anna said, all the meetings were unique and different I think are the adjectives I'm gonna go with here. Personally I think the theme picking was all the, the most challenging part because we all had our own different ideas. I guess none of us wanted to let go of a single idea that we'd come up with until the very last week. So I mean we came up with this one which was originally the secrets. We all voted it was a democracy. But yeah, I think that was the most interesting part, the theme picking and we didn't all agree for a very long time. Laura Maylene Walter (20:04): This exactly mirrors the publishing world in general, right, of different people trying to make decisions and it's ultimately subjective and you have to come to an agreement somehow. So I think these are all really good lessons to learn. Do you have any other so far favorite parts about editing the anthology or is there something in the future you're most looking forward to when it comes to the Teen Book Project? Is it holding the physical copy in your hands? What are you looking forward to in the future? Anna Lucia (20:33): I'm really looking forward to just reading pieces. I think that would be my main thing. I'm just ready to start digging through them. I've just really enjoyed hearing other people's perspectives on things 'cause we'll come up with a theme and someone will be like, okay, well what does that mean? And everyone has a different idea of what that means and that's just kind of cool to hear, to have conversations about those things. And something that means something to you doesn't mean something else to someone else. Like we talked about, just our group is very vast and has a lot of different age groups, different dynamics and it's just a cool experience in general. But for the future, definitely digging through those submissions. Alba Cristina (21:17): I think it's going to be the, just the sense that all this work wasn't for nothing and I did it and it's personalized and I got through it and it was fun. All of these people got to be heard. The best part is all of these people put all their minds and ideas in one book. So I think that's just gonna be the best part when I finally read and say we did it. Laura Maylene Walter (21:42): Your enthusiasm is contagious. I love it. So you are accepting submissions through probably the end of this year. I'll include links in the show notes for how listeners can learn how to get involved, possibly maybe even accepting more teen editors if anyone wants to come on board a little late. And when do you hope to actually work on the editing process and a rough timeline of when the anthology might be published? Alba Cristina (22:08): Well I think no clue. Laura Maylene Walter (22:12): <Laugh> That's fair. That's fair. Will it be sometime in 2024, in the spring? Alex Ashbrook (22:19): Yeah, June is when we're looking to have the book published. We'll have a nice little release party in June. We'll have some teen contributors there to read their work. So we'll do a nice live event to celebrate the release where we will have physical copies. So I think that'd be the best day of the process. That release party will be great. Laura Maylene Walter (22:36): Yeah, that'll be really exciting to have people there in person see the book, to have it all come together. I think that's great. Well let's put on our advice caps. So Anna and Alba, if you are talking to other teens or kids who might be interested in one day editing something like this or getting involved in editing or even just getting more involved with writing or art, what advice would you give to other kids in teens? Anna Lucia (23:06): Just do it <laugh>. It can be scary to put yourself out there and put your work out there, but at the end of the day, if you don't do it, you're not gonna know. And getting new experiences is just gonna help you so much in the long run. And like I said, it can be scary but you don't know until you try. And I think sometimes the best thing you can do is just not overthink it and just do it. Alba Cristina (23:36): I think you should always be confident in what you're writing. Don't like, don't worry about what other people are going to say to you or what someone you know might say to you. Just like, be confident in what you write. Don't let others stomp you out. 'cause I mean, I know it's not happened to me, but there's always gonna be someone that's like, you can't do this. So like don't let other people stomp you out. I guess also like a tip would be write down all of your ideas. I'm still working on that myself for about anything. Like write it all down so then you can try it out and if it works, it works. If it doesn't, it doesn't. We're still kids. We're not making executive life decisions yet. So I think we're good. Laura Maylene Walter (24:14): You are good. But maybe you are wise enough that you should be making executive decisions for adults like me. I feel like at this stage I would want you both to be my creativity gurus. I want Alba to be telling me to be confident in my writing and Anna to tell me just to do it. So this is actually really inspiring for me. I really appreciate hearing from both of you. So before we get to my last question for both of you, Alex, is there anything else I didn't ask about the Teen Book Project or anything else about Lake Erie Ink that you would like to share with our listeners? Alex Ashbrook (24:49): I think ultimately teen voices are often the ones who need to be heard the most and teens are often the hardest group to reach with this kind of thing. So the fact that our Teen Book Project attempts to accomplish both, that's really our main goal here. And the rest is just fun and democracy. Like Alba Cristina said along the way. We still haven't decided what Saturday to meet up in person. So that is the current issue that we're trying to figure out. Everything else has been great and I'm looking forward to the rest of the process. Laura Maylene Walter (25:19): The drama of picking the Saturday. I love it. <Laugh>. Yeah. Okay. My last question for Anna and Alba. I think anyone who listens to this interview will know that you both surely have really bright futures. You're just both so great. But can you share a little bit with us about any of your future dreams, hopes, aspirations for that future? It could be anything you wanna talk about. It could be your own writing and art. It could be where to go to school, it could be future careers. Anything at all that you would like to share with us so that we can kind of root along with you. Anna Lucia (25:51): My dream as of right now is art preservation and conservation. Specifically at Cleveland Museum of Art, I'm going onto my second year of teen programs there. I've always wanted to be in the art world when it comes to writing. I eventually wanna be a published author, but I don't think I could ever pick between art and writing. So why not do both? So that's the dream as of right now and stay tuned. <Laugh> Alba Cristina (26:22): I've been through a lot of stages in my life where I've thought, well, I wanna be this and this and this, but now I'm at, I don't actually know what I wanna be. I mean, I've tried a lot of different things that are not connected in any way, sort, or form, but I'm trying different things. I'm just seeing how this is gonna go. But I have this feeling that I'm gonna be something other. I'm gonna be something, but I'm not quite sure what. So yeah, I'm trying a lot of different things. I'm taking that one big leap of faith and seeing what I like. Laura Maylene Walter (26:55): You know, I think that's beautiful. Not necessarily knowing, especially you know, you're young, you're bright, you could do anything in the world. I believe it. I'm about ready to vote you in as president right now, but I guess we have to wait a few years for you to get old enough <laugh>. But absolutely, I think this is fantastic. I have even a brighter outlook about Cleveland's literary community because you are both part of it as well as other teens involved in this awesome project. So can you tell our listeners where they can go online to learn more about this book, this publication, and Lake Erie Ink? Anna Lucia (27:31): The Instagram account for the teen book is theteenbookproject. Just like that. No caps. It's all together and it has Lake Erie Ink tagged, so you'll know that's the right one. Laura Maylene Walter (27:42): Again, check the show notes everyone for information about Lake Erie Ink and about the Teen Book Project. And if you are a teen or if you have a teen or kid in your life who would like to submit, please encourage them to do so. I also encourage everyone to support Lake Erie Ink. Thank you to all three of you for being here. I really appreciate it. Alex Ashbrook (28:03): Thank you so much. Laura Maylene Walter (28:07): Page Count is presented by the Ohio Center for the Book at Cleveland Public Library. If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe, rate and leave a review for Page Count wherever you get your podcasts. Learn more online or find a transcript of this episode at OhioCenterfortheBook.org. Follow us on Instagram @ohiocenterforthebook, on Twitter @cplocfb, or find us on Facebook. If you'd like to get in touch, email firstname.lastname@example.org and put "podcast" in the subject line. Finally, follow me on Instagram and Twitter @LauraMaylene. Thanks for listening, and we'll be back in two weeks for another chapter of Page Count.
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