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Is your teenager a junior J.K. Rowling? Perhaps the teen version of Stephenie Meyer or an adolescent Nicholas Sparks? Publishing giant HarperCollins thinks future teenage writing superstars are out there, and it created an innovative way to find them.
The idea, formally launched this week by HC's teen imprint HarperTeen, is InkPop, an online community writing site for teenagers. In it, kid scribes submit poems, essays, novels, and short stories which are judged by other kids. The five submissions receiving the most votes each month get special consideration, feedback, and advice from HC editors and authors.
Next thing you know, some kid -- maybe yours? -- is one click away from becoming the next literary sensation.
I must admit, some of the uploaded stories do sound pretty compelling:
Shadow Watchers is about an outcast seventeen-year-old girl who hears voices that could help her prevent the next world war.
The Scars We Hide tells the tale of an unlikely romance between a teenage cutter and an anxiety-ridden girl.
First, To Dream of Love is a romantic, otherworldly legend about which the author earnestly writes: "I have poured my whole heart and soul into this book. If you are only planning on reading one chapter please skip to chapter 42 -- the dialogue between Michael and his father is to die for!"
Lest there be any doubt these are actually written by teenagers.
While on many levels InkPop represents the "American Idol-ization" of yet another classic American institution, at least this competition is not based on how cute or energetic or annoying you are, or to what lengths you're willing to embarrass yourself (depending, of course, on that death-worthy dialogue between Michael and his father).
It's a writing competition. Well... a writing competition based on the random-seeming standards of teen coolness.
That standard may differ from the ones held by most Chaucer-loving English teachers. But in my book, whatever gets kids writing is a good thing. And with over 10,000 submissions already, InkPop clearly rises to the level of pretty cool.