A Day with the Editors, A Night at a Reading

LPR Editors Laura Shovan and Jen Grow with Centennial High School students

LPR editors Laura Shovan and Jen Grow (second row, far right) with Centennial High School Advanced Composition students (Photo: Jon Kolp)

It takes audacity and faith in yourself to begin sending work out to publications. We received several submissions from local teens, all for our upcoming Audacity issue. I tracked down these young writers to Corey O’Brien’s Advanced Composition class at Centennial High School in Ellicott City, Maryland. A few weeks ago, LPR Fiction Editor Jen Grow and I visited the class.

Here’s what two of the students in the class, Jennifer Swiger and Lucy Font, had to say about that day:

Every other day at 10:15 am, we write. Members of our class settle into seats, open daybooks and write. The girl near the door could be inventing a fantasy world between the lines of her notebook, while the boy in the back of the room could be filling his pages with a mouth-watering description of what he ate for lunch yesterday. Whatever the case may be, we write.

On Friday, however, we listened. Privileged with the presence of two editors from the acclaimed publication Little Patuxent Review, we learned that writing is about more than pen and paper. Seated before us were Editor Laura Shovan and Fiction Editor Jen Grow. A few minutes into their presentation, we began to scribble furiously, jotting down words of inspiration. As any class would, we had questions. Giancarlo Albano paved the way by asking, “How important is the title of a piece?”

From there, Shovan and Grow elaborated on countless aspects of the writing process, from revision to formatting. Their shared experience as editors and their words of wisdom as well as the diverse publications that they brought, ranging from Shovan’s high school literary magazine to the latest issue of LPR, proved to be invaluable.

Shovan and Grow emphasized a key piece of advice: do not give up. They made it clear that rejection is inevitable and, more importantly, that each rejection should strengthen the desire to persevere. An anecdote that made an impact on us involved a class of art students that had been painting diligently only to be instructed by the teacher to flip their canvases and paint over their work. Why not think of writing as a blank canvas, a clean slate? As Jackie Minehart said, “[the story] touches on the point that we have to have confidence in our writing skills and continue to progress in order to get better. If we realize one idea isn’t working, we must move forward.”

The generosity with which Shovan and Grow offered us their time and expertise was appreciated beyond words. As writers, we gained insight into both the process of publishing and the art of writing. We were taught to be fearless, honest with ourselves and, most importantly, true to our craft. We must write and continue to do so. Thank you, LPR!

Corey O'Brien with students

Three Centennial High School poets with teacher Corey O'Brien at LPR's Wisdomwell reading. From left to right, Jen Swiger, Poulomi Banerjee, Corey and Jackie Minehart. (Photo: Eva Quintos Tennant)

We invited Corey and his students to the following Friday’s Wisdomwell reading and were delighted that they took us up on it. The subsequent Monday, the three students who had read their own poems there–Jen Swiger, Poulomi Banerjee and Jackie Minehart–shared their experiences with the rest of the class. From what Corey later told us, it was clear that the evening had made a lasting impression on the students who had accompanied him. Jen Swiger, he said, had summed it up by saying that the Friday night poetry reading was the first time that she felt like a writer. As a both writer and an educator, I have to love that.

Online Editor’s Note: If you’re a teacher, you might be interested in our LPR in the Classroom Program, which offers our print publication at a discounted price. You might also want to read two pieces on how LPR was used in creative writing classes at Howard Community College: “LPR in the Classroom” and “An ‘Excellent’ Experiment.” In addition, our “Concerning Craft” series, particularly the one with input from a young poet (“Concerning Craft: Dylan Bargteil”), could be useful for classroom discussions.

One thought on “A Day with the Editors, A Night at a Reading

  1. Rus VanWestervelt

    I commend LPR and Corey O’Brien for working together to provide “real-life” literary experiences for our young writers and emerging authors. Once again, LPR affirms the belief of Corey and others that “authentic” writing doesn’t have to begin happening after students graduate and move on to college or other career paths. The writing they are doing — right now — is authentic, and having the opportunities to share their polished words with a larger audience legitimizes their work as real-life contributions to the documentation of the human experience.


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