If you’ve been keeping up with reading trends for more than a decade, you probably know that YA literature is all the rage — not only with teenagers, but also with adults. There are a lot of reasons adults are so drawn to these stories: recognition, relatability, and an increase in availability, among others. I’d venture to add that we can’t help but be curious about how our experiences during that unforgettable time of life — terrifying and exhilarating all at once — compare to what teens are going through today.
That said, with the exception of a handful of books written by teenage authors, most YA literature is written by adults. So, if we really want to get an authentic perspective on what teens are experiencing right now, shouldn’t we be reading stories written by them?
Fortunately, there are plenty of teen-authored literary journals that provide a steady stream of young adult voices throughout the year. I first discovered the world of literary journals that showcase only teen writers when I became a board member of #TeenWritersProject, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing an inclusive platform for fostering creativity and innovation for high school-aged writers. One of my responsibilities is serving as an editor of the #TeenWritersProject Quarterly Lit Zine. Through that work, I’ve come to more fully appreciate why all of us should be reading teen-authored literary journals.
To get a little more perspective, I talked to #TeenWritersProject founder delmetria millener about how she thinks teen-authored literary journals impact both teens and adults. millener founded #TeenWritersProject Quarterly Lit Zine because she recognized that teenagers are the best “documentarists of our times,” but needed a storytelling space of their own — away from the noise of adult voices — that would “allow them to be their honest, in-your-face selves.” She has seen this platform help teen writers to cultivate disciplined writing habits and gain the confidence to look for agents and seek additional opportunities to publish their work.
One of the most important parts of millener’s vision was to include teenagers on the editorial staff.
“I’ve always thought it upside-down that other teen creatives like teen musicians could work part-time in the church choir or join a band,” she told me, “but teen writers had to work in fast food or retail.” She wants to not only show aspiring writers that there are viable career options in the publishing industry, but also give them the opportunity to learn about and explore these kinds of opportunities now — before all the responsibilities of adulthood catch up to them and encroach on their time.
While #TeenWritersProject Quarterly Lit Zine regularly reaches and inspires teenage readers, millener believes that we adults can learn a lot about the rising generation by reading teen-authored literary journals. “Teens are sending messages through their writing about the state of their mental and emotional health, metaphorically, analogously, and poetically.” She believes teens want nothing more than to reach adults through their writing, and she encourages us to take a moment to listen to them — an opportunity she and I seize regularly. In fact, we’ve often discussed how these teens’ stories leave us feeling a powerful range of emotions — moved to tears, brought to laughter, and everything in between.
So, whether you’re a teenage writer looking to submit, a teenage reader searching for work by your peers, or an adult who wants to learn about and support the next generation of writers, check out these teen-authored literary journals that exclusively showcase work by young people between the ages of 13 and 19.
Teen-Authored Literary Journals Published by Schools
Created by Susquehanna University in Pennsylvania, this annual publication features poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and photography by high school students from all over the United States and abroad. In addition to distributing printed copies to approximately 3,000 schools each year, The Apprentice Writer also publishes its current and past issues online.
Published by Douglas Anderson School of the Arts in Jacksonville, Florida, this teen-authored journal is staffed by high school juniors and seniors. Élan features poetry, fiction, nonfiction, plays, screenplays, and visual art by students, ages 14 to 18, from all around the world. Élan publishes two online issues per year and combines both issues into one print edition each summer. Current and past issues are available on its website.
This annual publication is produced by the creative writing students at Interlochen Arts Academy and features not only writing and art, but also music by young artists, grades 9 through 12, from around the world. Editors look for fiction, nonfiction, songs, scripts, and more that exhibit “passion, skill, and an innovative approach to the craft.” Current and past issues are available on its website.
Published by Idyllwild Arts Academy and created, designed, and edited by its high school students, Parallax has been showcasing Idyllwild students’ work in print since 1997. In 2011, the school added Parallax Online, which features work by high school students around the globe. Parallax Online’s curated fiction, nonfiction, plays, screenplays, book reviews, and author interviews — current and past — can be found on its website.
Independently Published Teen-Authored Literary Journals
Cliché Teen Journal, a bi-annual online journal featuring works by teens ages 13 to 19, is on a mission “to break the cliché teen stereotype that many teens despise being labeled under.” CTJ publishes fiction, poetry, personal essays, art, and photography, among other types of work. Current and past issues can be found on its website.
This biannual online publication is passionate about helping teens voice their ideas and then sharing that work with the world. The Daphne Review provides a space for young artists, ages 13 to 18, to channel the power of creative expression through written and visual work in any media. Current and past issues are available on its website.
Named for the term describing the edge of a book, opposite the spine, The Foredge Review believes that “every piece written by another perspective adds to the complexity and beauty of this mess of life.” Published bi-annually, this online journal features fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry from teens, ages 13 to 18, from all over the world, but with a focus on those in Asian countries. Current and past issues are available on its website
Founded in 2020 by teenager Victoria Kim and her team of fellow high school students, The Formula “provides a safe, included community for high school students all around the world to express their experiences, thoughts, and feelings.” The Formula includes work on a variety of topics, including trends, social issues, entertainment, and more. Published biannually, each online issue features fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and artwork on a theme. Current and past issues are available on its website.
The Milking Cat describes itself as “the online teen comedy magazine for the humorous and slightly intelligent.” The concept came to life when its founder, Benji Elkins, wanted to publish a humor magazine to rival his high school’s student newspaper, but wasn’t allowed to do so. Produced online by a team of high school students, The Milking Cat features comedic work in any media by teenagers from around the world. All of the work is presented on its website.
Polyphony Lit publishes fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction written and edited by high school students from all over the world. The staff is dedicated not only to helping develop teen editors, but also to building productive writer-editor relationships. The annual volume consists of submitted pieces as well as the works of quarterly contest winners. Current and past works can be found on its website.
For more than 31 years, Teen Ink Magazine has been a publishing platform where young writers, ages 13 to 19, can express their views on the issues that affect their lives. Teen Ink Magazine features poetry, fiction, nonfiction, reviews, and visual art year-round. Readers need a subscription to access the full magazine, but they can view samples of each issue on the website.
This is the publication for which I volunteer — and the one that started my journey of discovering teen-authored literary journals. The #TeenWritersProject Quarterly Lit Magazine’s editorial staff is a mix of adults and teens, and showcases fiction, nonfiction, interviews, poetry, dramatic works, and visual art by teens from all over the world. Editor-in-chief delmetria millener wrote this to inspire submissions: “You’re allowed to scream. You’re allowed to cry. Just grab a pen and paper to catch the beautiful mess.” Current and past issues can be accessed on the website.
The Weight Journal believes that “[e]veryone has something heavy to get off their chest,” and strives to offer a creative outlet where teenagers can do just that. The Weight Journal features poetry, slam, fiction, creative fiction, hybrid, and “whatever else you have.” Editors look for works that will make readers feel the weight of what the writer has to say about the human experience. Current and past works can be found on its website.
By reading teen-authored literary journals, you’re not only getting an opportunity to laugh, cry, listen, and remember, but you’re also supporting the very voices who are continuing the legacy of meaningful, well-told stories we bookworms can’t live without.
To find more literary journal suggestions, including online publications featuring works by writers of all ages, literary magazines published by libraries, and more, check out Book Riot’s literary magazine archive.