Starting A Competitive Journal As A High School Student
My initial encounter with poetry was a bit of an accident. One day towards the end of my freshman year of high school, my English teacher Ms. Elizabeth Cleary pulled me aside after class and encouraged me to submit to the on-campus literary magazine, as part of an effort to increase underclassman involvement in the publication. Needless to say, I decided to submit, and my first poem (entitled “Break-My-Heart Battlefield,” no less) was published that May.
Over the summer, writing became infectious. Within a few months, I knew what I wanted to do with my life: publish and create. Perhaps, then, it isn’t surprising that I found myself creating a literary magazine five short months after I started free writing.
When I founded The Adroit Journal, I was juggling numerous ideals. I spent about four hours one Friday afternoon at the beginning of my sophomore year planning out the journal’s mission, and immediately set to work. At the time, I almost didn’t realize it was atypical for a high school student to dive headfirst into such a professional scene. I never gave doubt the time to shatter my initial confidence.
That said, of course, there was certainly no How to Start a Literary Magazine When You’re Still Too Young for Adults to Take You Seriously tab on Wikipedia. The journal’s path, at least initially, was marked by much experimentation and trial & error. In fact, for the first year of the journal’s development, I was the sole staff member, and nobody—not even my parents, friends, and teachers—knew of the journal’s existence. I worked in secret, and I worked alone.
Now, however, I cannot imagine working without my editorial team and reading staff of fifty undergraduate and secondary writers from around the world. Together, we read and evaluate submissions, and ultimately define what the next generation of writers finds appealing in written and artistic work. In this way, what might seem a daunting or perhaps excessive task has become a series of daily votes and comments from young writers stationed all over the world.
I suppose I founded the journal as a frustrated aspiring writer. Part of the initial frustration was the sort of unwillingness I found towards supplying emerging writers in high school and college with valuable opportunities to break into the publishing and publication worlds. Another part of my initial frustration was the waste of following that I found among literary magazine upon my entrance to the literary world. It seemed like, for the most part, top existing publications were primarily interested in promoting their own publications and contributors, while simultaneously neglecting additional worthy causes.
To help give these causes the attention they deserve, I have worked since founding the journal to construct various human rights features. For example, the journal’s fourth issue (Spring 2012) included a Cuban dissident writers’ feature with seventy pages of relevant articles and translated writings, and the journal’s eighth issue (Forthcoming—Winter 2014) will include a feature in partnership with Zimbabwe Poets for Human Rights.
With features and distinguishing characteristics like these, The Adroit Journal has become a relatively well-recognized literary publication in its two and a half years of history. I have received approximately 4,500 submissions from around the world as of March 2013, and continue to expand the journal’s reach and mission. I have formed some very strong friendships and professional relationships, and feel that the staff of the journal includes some of tomorrow’s most successful poets, fiction writers, playwrights, and novelists.
Furthermore, the journal is now affiliated with twelve literary organizations and publications—Scholastic, Figment.com, and Acumen Fund, among others. With respect to each of these groups, a unique bond has been created, and specific opportunities have been identified.
The opportunity to accept submissions from around the world, partner with global literary agencies, and collaborate with a group of budding international writers has unquestionably opened my eyes to new cultures and perspectives. I have had the incredibly good fortune of talking with Pulitzer and Pushcart Prize recipients, previous Poet Laureates, and numerous college professors, and have been proud to feature their works in subsequent issues of The Adroit Journal. Moreover, as someone who has received thousands of submissions from young writers and been able to observe responses and trends from the staff, I have had a unique opportunity to look into the future at what the next generation desires in writing and art.
Acquiring this perspective is one of the many ways I have been able to advance my own work through my work with the journal, and is one of the many reasons I continue to spread knowledge of the journal’s existence to new countries, states, and schools. My work so far is the tip of the iceberg!
Peter LaBerge is a high school senior from Connecticut, and a nominee for the 2013 United States Presidential Scholar in the Arts designation. His recent work has appeared in The Newport Review, Gargoyle, The Louisville Review, and elsewhere. He is a New Voices Editor for The Newport Review, a Genre Editor for Polyphony H.S., and the Founder/Editor-in-Chief of The Adroit Journal. In the fall, Peter will be a freshman at the University of Pennsylvania. For more information, visit www.peterlaberge.co.nr.