A budding online journal co-founded by a local English teacher is making a splash on the national literary scene.
The Young Adult Review Network (YARN) was co-founded by Crescenta Valley High School English teacher Shannon Marshall, was awarded the 2011 Innovations in Reading Prize earlier this month by the National Book Foundation, the same body that gives the prestigious National Book Awards.
The Innovations in Reading Prize is conferred to those who have developed a pioneering approach to “creating and sustaining a life-long love of reading,” according to the foundation. It includes a $2,500 cash prize.
Marshall launched YARN in February 2010 with a high school friend, Kerri Majors, a former writing professor at Fairleigh Dickinson University and a published author. They were looking to create a forum dedicated to young-adult fiction where established and emerging writers could converge.
“We are thrilled and honored to have received this award,” Majors said. “It is a pleasure to provide a publication opportunity to [young-adult] writers, and a reading opportunity to the growing audience for [young-adult literature].”
YARN includes interviews with established professionals, such as Meg Cabot, author of the “Princess Diaries” series, as well as nonfiction essays, short-form fiction and poetry. Marshall and her colleagues are already exploring how to ready the online journal for the newest publishing format, mobile devices.
“One of the reasons we decided on an online literary journal is it is so much more accessible than a paper journal is,” Marshall said. “We were brainstorming, ‘Where are the teenagers?’ Well, they are online, they are on Facebook, they are on Twitter.”
Fifteen years ago, young-adult fiction was viewed within the larger literary community as second-rate, Marshall said. But today, the genre is rich with mature, sophisticated work, she said, and it includes fans of all ages.
“What I love about young-adult literature is it captures this moment in time when everything is felt very, very deeply,” Marshall said. “Amazing young-adult literature really brings those emotions to the forefront.”
Submission guidelines are carefully outlined on the website, Marshall said. They currently publish about 15% of the pieces they receive.
In the early months, editors were hitting the pavement to solicit work from authors, Marshall said. Now the journal is being contacted by literary publicists and agents trying to get their clients in.
With teenage writers, the process sometimes evolves into an editing lesson.
“We are a team of educators; we just can’t help ourselves,” Marshall said. “When we have a teenager who has promise, we will often email them back and say, ‘This piece is great. This is what we would like to see improved. Would you be willing to make the change and resubmit?’”