So much for the myth that the art of writing has been lost on texting teens.
An after-school Literary Journal club at Middletown High School North doubled in size from last year, to 30 students. On Tuesdays, members are gathering to share a passion for the printed word as they work together to produce a small book of art and prose.
Co-Editor Sydney Forte, 18, said the club had become a sort of salon for creative thought for the young members. "They're discussing books, suggesting books and borrowing them from each other," she said.
Her 18-year old co-editor and running buddy, Cheyenne Zani, said, "When you come to Viewpoint, you read what you want to read -- not what you have to read," said "You share in a nice and warm environment, while at the same time getting the critiqued, so you can get better."
Viewpoint is an attractive 75-page literary journal with art and illustrations, produced by the students, and printed in color. In May, 100 copies are printed, and they are sold for $5. A digital version is also available for free.
On this day, the chatty group had welcomed back graduates to celebrate winning first place in the American Scholastic Press Association for school magazine publications, a contest they entered last spring. None of the students could actually remember submitting the book, so the surprise announcement was as sweet as the buttercream frosting on the celebration cake.
At Viewpoint, students write short stories and poems, or submit their photographs and art to the publication. A contributed piece is reproduced on a printout or projected on an overhead screen. Every student is an editor, and together they discuss the work out loud, without being told whose piece it is. At the end, they scribble down a vote and a note on whether it goes into the publication, or whether it needs more work.
"I love the energy of this group. I love that it feels like a safe haven for them to joke around, and feel like they're doing something good," said Michelle Goldfarb, an English teacher and Viewpoint advisor for the past three years. "Once they get rolling, you can feel the camaraderie. They really do feed off each other. They critique and applaud each other."
2012 Viewpoint Editor Katii Zinneman was visiting from Delaware Valley College, where she is studying the equine business. She recalled spending many hours coming to school early and staying afterwards to read pieces, lay out the pages and produce the publication.
She was part of a team with Shayna Flynn, poet and artist who assisted with the magazine’s layout and Grant Playter, Jessica Molinaro and Danielle Hathaway who were integral to the fundraising and organization of the group.
"It was the only thing I was involved in," said Zinneman. "This was a different breed of people. In high school, it can be hard. Here, I opened up to people and shared my interests."