Nonprofit literary magazine Philadelphia Stories will launch PS Teen, an offshoot of its existing biannual PS Junior publication, this fall.
PS Junior will serve writers 12 and under, while PS Teen will cater to writers 13 to 18. Each will be published once a year. The first issue of PS Teen will be released this fall, while PS Junior will be released in the spring. Keeping with tradition, every issue will be accompanied by a free release party for the contributing writers and artists.
Like PS Junior, PS Teen will draw from writers in Pennsylvania, Delaware, and South Jersey; they can submit short stories, poetry, and works of art. (To learn more about submission, go to www.philadelphiastories.org. Submissions will be accepted year-round.)
The lit mag will be edited by Sharada Krishnamurthy, who started working with PS Junior as a grad student at Rowan University after meeting Philadelphia Stories publisher Carla Spataro.
The PS Junior staff decided to split 'zines because of the growing popularity of the publication that was founded in 2012. Its quarterly parent magazine, established in 2004, distributes 5,000 free copies to 200 locations in the Delaware Valley, including every branch of the Free Library.
"When Junior was first launched, we were still getting our feet on the ground and building an audience," PS Junior director Aileen Bachant said. "It's clear that we have one now."
Because PS Junior's writers encompass a range of ages, the focus of works could vary from elementary-school appropriate to more mature themes.
"We didn't want to keep high school students from writing about topics that were germane to them," said Kara Cochran, an assistant program director at PS Junior. "They might be about parents getting divorced. They might be about sexual assault."
Chloe Datner, a 16-year-old from Havertown, wrote the poem "The Art of Growing up Without Realizing It" in her 10th-grade English class at Haverford High School. Her teacher, Jennifer Ward, set time aside each class period for free writing. The piece was published in PS Junior's spring issue this year and addresses the double standards that women face in society.
In one verse, Datner reframes the proverbial monster under the bed as a vicious rumor monger. She had to censor the word "slut" with an asterisk: "She lingers on tongues and leaps from lips / and soon enough she's screaming 'sl*t' / because of the way you sway your hips."
"I wasn't able to [include the word] because of the younger audience that came with the whole magazine," Datner said. "I think it will be a lot more appealing to teens to just read other works by teens."
While some submissions, such as Datner's, come from classrooms, another source of content is volunteer-based literacy group Mighty Writers, which runs a weekly Teen Scholars program for older students.
"The whole writing process is really fluid because it's not a school program," said Cochran, a volunteer at Mighty Writers' South and West Philadelphia locations. She now mentors students and leads external workshops for the organization. "We have to work with students on their level in some way."
James Owk, a program manager at the South Philly branch of Mighty Writers, leads Teen Scholars, which he likens to a "year-round humanities course."
"These kids, these young people, enjoy writing," Owk said. "By the end, they love it."