Teachers, textbook editors, assessment developers, and educators use the New Library to establish benchmarks of writing achievement at many levels. Many Library works appear on state-level writing and reading assessments. In 10 countries including China and Japan, these works make important contributions to English-as-a-Foreign Language curricula and teacher training programs as well as national competency exams for high school seniors and college students.
Listen to Merlyn's Pen founder R. James Stahl's radio essay on mentoring and publishing "CREATIVE KIDS." It aired in January, 2010, on the public radio program THIS I BELIEVE-- RHODE ISLAND, a production of National Public Radio affiliate WRNI, in Rhode Island. Read the essay, below:
THIS I BELIEVE
By R. James Stahl, Merlyn's Pen Founder
The week of my Bar Mitzvah, a bomb-making prank (my idea) took my left eye. Until that moment, I was seeing the world as a 13-year-old boy sees it. A second later, I wasn’t. What I believe about kids' creativity, and the career I made of it, very likely began in that moment.
I published writers, some of them famous now, when they still had curfews. They would mail me their folded thoughts about growing up, the trials of school, the death of a pet, the birth of a little brother. Most submissions I had to reject, but published or not each one received a personal response from my talented staff or from me. From our Main Street office in East Greenwich, Rhode Island, we published the best submissions in a magazine, Merlyn's Pen, that we shipped all across the world. My experience taught me to believe in the practical value of listening to young people.
Publishing young writers sent a message of hope to creative kids who felt their talents were trivial or unwanted. Their creativity mattered to me. Even the briefest submissions could floor me. One 8th grader, for instance, wrote a poem called “Religion.” “On the sixth day,” it said, “He got up/and sprayed people /from an aerosol can /and then /God threw away /the exhausted container.”
Such provocation in seven lines! Is creating humanity as casual as spraying air freshener in a guest room? Does that “exhausted container” mean that the creative act fatigues even all-powerful God? In hundreds of classrooms that read this poem, discussions took off -- all of them launched by the measured words of one creative teen!
Publishing kids, I saw that the brightest ones teach their peers and their teachers. That’s why I believe in urging more teen involvement in our civic and volunteer organizations, in our schools, places of worship, and government. We need the brightest ideas from kids, their originality, their view of the world, and their view of us -- the adults in charge.
Creative teens have already shaped Western culture. Writers who helped define the American character -- Edgar Allan Poe, Sylvia Plath, Langston Hughes among them – were publishing as teens. A young Mozart composed melodies we still hum today. When Frankenstein took his first arthritic step into our imaginations, how old was his creator, Mary Shelley? About 16.
So how much higher could America soar if input from creative kids was built into the plan? I believe much higher.
Maybe schools can take the first step. They can become places where innovative, creative kids feel as safe, as wanted, and as celebrated as their home-run hitting, touchdown-scoring peers in athletics. Independent schools could lead the way. Others may follow.
I believe in getting creative kids to the table now to solve our biggest problems. We can use the help!
Why Study American Teen Writers?
By R. James Stahl, Merlyn's Pen Founder
When multiculturalism opened the school door to more women writers, more African-American, Hispanic, and Native American writers, an unexpected bird flew in too. Common and small, as ubiquitous as the sparrow, this bird’s song caught everyone by surprise. Fresh. Real. Accessible. Students responded to it. Teachers noticed their interest. Why had no one heard it before?
The compelling narrative voice of America’s teenage authors took all of us by surprise. Writing so new, and so unexpectedly articulate... it made the feature pages of The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Christian Science Monitor, and all the important journals read by English teachers and librarians. "Uniformly excellent," said the Wilson Library Bulletin. "Surprisingly good," announced School Library Journal. And readers of English Journal praised this new fiction as "outstanding," and "excellent," and "most useful in the English classroom."
That small bird has found its way across the nation, even across oceans. Fiction by American teens became required reading -- actually built into the syllabus -- in more than 1,000 U.S. schools. Even today, though the original Merlyn's Pen magazine is no longer in print, some 1,000 readers each week still resource its amazing stories in the New Library of Young Adult Writing. Why? For instruction. For discussion. For its collection of top fiction. For the pure pleasure of it. American teen fiction is now read in Germany, too, and in France and Japan and China, where students learn to speak English with stories and essays in the New Library of Young Adult Writing. Some teen authors first published in Merlyn's Pen are now, years later, winning the most prestigious awards in literature. Now that’s quite a flight from 1985!
We honor the young adults who gave themselves to the writing of this new literature, and we salute the prescient teachers who kept the door open, who listened, who recognized a new genre when they saw one. Merlyn’s Pen and the New Library of Young Adult Writing are still proud to bring you the next generation of fiction by American teen writers.
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