This year Johnson County Library celebrates the long history of elementia, a teen literary arts magazine. The publication, made by and for teens, has published over 1,000 pieces of writing and art in 13 years.
Launched in 2005 at the Central Resource Library, elementia issue i included 22 pieces of writing, the products of the Library’s writing workshop for teens. Published on a library copy machine, the issue didn’t have a wide circulation, but it started something in motion that would become the award-winning magazine the library publishes today.
Over 15 issues elementia has grown to accept over 800 submissions of teen writing and art every year. Each issue of the magazine is edited and designed by teen volunteers who collectively contribute over 600 hours to make the magazine. It is published in full color on glossy paper and over 2,500 copies are distributed for free each year!
You can’t publish 1,000 pieces of writing and art without making an impact and as the Library prepares to release a special edition book, The Best of elementia, they have gone back to reconnect with past authors and artists to see what being published meant to them when they were a teen.
Being published gives a teen writer or artist confidence and validation:
“Being published gave me a sense of pride that I’ve never felt before. I felt noticed, validated, that my work was finally being appreciated. It kept me going, and is still something I think about now, years later, when my creative streaks start to fade.”
– Sarah Woods (issue xii)
“elementia was one of the first platforms that made me feel confident and comfortable submitting my work. Now as an artist it is a necessity to submit my work to get scholarships, gallery showings, etc. So I was very fortunate and grateful that elementia gave me a good start.”
– Michelle Chan (issues ix, x, xi, xii)
Creating community and a place to share is key:
“It’s a great way for you to share your work and have a creative outlet. You also get to read others and be a part of a community who loves what you do.”
“My most vivid memories of elementia was the support and the love on reception nights. All the parents, friends, loved ones of the artists, writers and performers is astonishing. A lot of first time or younger participants (and at one point including me) are usually really shy or get stage fright with so many people in the audience. However what tends to ease the nerves is the support shown by the audience. I think the “elementia’s experience” is not only to celebrate the publication and its participants but also the shared experience of having those you care about around you too.”
– Matt Tanzer (issue ii, iv, v)
Ultimately, elementia is a place to grow and showcase writers and artists:
“As a teenager (when I submitted my work to elementia), I dreamed of having a career where someone would pay me to write. 13 years later, I’m doing just that. I followed my dream of studying writing in college and grad school, and I’ve been employed as a writer for over 6 years. Big dreams can come true and hard work really does pay off. If that teenager could see me now…”
– Brooke Shippee (issue i, ii, v)
Join the Library to celebrate elementia at the Best of elementia release party on Friday, November 2 from 5:30-7:30 p.m. at the Central Resource Library. The event is part of the Library’s Writers Conference, a three-day festival for local writers to hone their craft and connect with others.
Creative teens are encouraged to submit through February 1, 2019 to elementia’s sixteenth issue on the theme of Breaking Free. Information and past issues of the magazine can be found online.
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