Tag Archives: teen writers

Young Female Writers Club

Better on Paper: An Introverted Teen Writer 

Written by K.L. Kranes

Hannah stands in the middle of the hall and pulls out a notebook, fumbling for a pen. She can’t wait. She has to write it down now. 

Pressing the notebook against the wall, she begins to write. The idea flows out as her hand scribbles fast across the paper. When she’s done, her shoulders relax.  She stuffs the notebook back in her bag and sets off to class.

At 16-years-old, Hannah Mullen of Mechanicsville, Virginia often feels this grip of an idea and the compulsive need to get it out on paper. On paper she can be herself. On paper is where she feels safe.

“I definitely use writing to work through my emotions,” she explains. “I use my notebooks for everything. I have a reading log in the front. I doodle. I write. It’s usually just whenever and wherever I get inspiration.”

Although Hannah is a writer, she doesn’t necessarily want to make an impression. She would probably rather tiptoe through life making no noticeable divots in the fabric of the world, at least not until she first gave each step a great deal of thought. But, whether she wanted to or not, Hannah made an impression on the Hanover Writers Club. Even three years after she stopped attending meetings, they still remember her, the 12-year-old girl working on her first novel. 

When I ask Hannah why she decided to write and publish a novel, she replies, “I just woke up one day and decided this is what I wanted to do.” 

Two years after starting the novel, at age 13, Hannah self-published Experimentals on Amazon. She didn’t think anyone would read it. But attention and accolades do not seem to matter much to Hannah. 

In fact, it becomes clear early in our interview that Hannah doesn’t like to talk about herself or tout her accomplishments. I get the sense she would rather have her nose in a book than be on the phone with me. Regardless, she is gracious and witty, even if a bit reticent. 

“I’ve always loved books,” she says. At the beginning of our interview, Hannah answers my questions with these types of brief answers. 

I quickly realize, Hannah, like many writers, is introverted. I ask her, “You don’t trust easily do you?” She answers, “No.”

I feel an instant kinship with Hannah as I too have introverted tendencies. By the end of the interview, I think I have won her trust, but I’m not certain. 

Once Hannah gets more comfortable with me, her personality begins to shine through. Although I can’t see her expressions, I imagine she is not quick with a smile, but when she gives one, it is meaningful.

“Sometimes I will go a whole day without saying a word,” Hannah tells me. “People expect me to talk. I don’t mind presentations or anything of the sort but socially I’m a wreck. People think just because I don’t talk to them it means I don’t like them.”

Writing helps Hannah cope with the social pressures of being an introvert in an extroverted world. When she writes, Hannah can carefully craft her words in a way that eludes her when speaking. 

“I can erase my writing and I cannot erase what I said. Sometimes I don’t think before I speak, but writing forces me to think,” she says.

Although introverted, Hannah doesn’t spend her days hiding in her room. She has starred in theater productions since she was 8-years-old and takes part in her high school theater program. It isn’t the spotlight that unnerves Hannah, it is not being prepared for it. 

“In my head, things aren’t really thought out. It’s big word vomit,” she says. “I like acting because I don’t have to think about what I say.”

Hannah’s thoughtful mind translates to a thoughtful person. Once Hannah opens up during our interview, it becomes clear she has a big heart. 

“I’ve always been drawn to helping people,” she says. 

In fact, although Hannah finds writing therapeutic, she doesn’t want to be a writer as her profession. It is partially practical. She knows the obstacles and difficulties writers face. Hannah is content writing for herself and pouring her emotions into her notebooks or her poetry blog, https://angsty-teen-poetry.tumblr.com. 

Hannah is more interested in helping people than gathering followers on Snapchat or Instagram. She donates her time at a nearby hospital, assisting with discharges and stocking the pharmacy, while dreaming of one day becoming a pediatrician. Her voice thrums with excitement when she talks about being accepted into a program called SODA (Student Organization for Developing Attitudes), which helps teach 4th graders how to deal with peer pressure. 

Speaking with Hannah reminds me that writing is not just about getting published or how many people follow your blog. Writing is a deeply personal experience. Hannah doesn’t want to just be known as a girl who wrote and published a book before she was even in high school. She would rather be known for her thoughtfulness and how she helped people. She may feel better on paper, but I think we would all feel better if we viewed the world a bit more like Hannah.

The Next Literary Voices: Cara Hadden

It’s a classic story. A group of possessed marshmallows unleashes havoc on a small town in California. You’ve heard it before, right? Probably not. This type of atypical idea can only come from an inventive mind with a Roald Dahl sense of humor.

This story of marshmallow mayhem came from a mind in Virginia’s Spotsylvania County, just outside of Fredericksburg. This brave mind isn’t afraid to invent strange stories about sugary snacks. In a world where book readership is shrinking, it’s the kind of mind that just might be the future of books. It’s the mind of Cara Hadden.

“The worst kind of failure is to not try at all,” Cara explains when talking about writing and the fear criticism.

This sounds like an old proverb from a tattered library book or a piece of advice a grandparent might rattle off over dinner. It’s a thought of a person who has experienced life and its fickle fate.

But Cara’s not a grandparent or even an adult. She’s a 15-year-old freshman at Chancellor High School, and she understands failure and loss in a way most teens do not. I certainly wasn’t spouting Confucius-like quotes in high school. Like many, in my teens, my problems were more of the self-created melodrama variety.

This was not so for Cara.

There is an old saying that artists must suffer for their art. Whether this is true or not is debatable. In Cara’s case, from suffering an artist was born.

When Cara was just over a year old, her father was diagnosed with brain cancer. He battled the disease for ten years, passing away in 2014 when Cara was eleven and had just started middle school. Cara could have channeled her grief into any number of noble causes. Barely a decade old, it would have been understandable if she did nothing more than get up in the morning, hug her mother and grandmother, and go to school.

A few months after her father’s death, as part of an in-class assignment, Cara wrote a time travel story about a boy living during a nuclear war, based on a prompt titled, “Another Time, Another Place.” By the end of class, Cara’s story was not complete. She had more to say. Her teacher allowed her to finish the story at home. The next day, she returned to class with 9-pages of prose and a realization. She wanted to be a writer.

Armed with this new purpose, in 7th grade, Cara wrote another story, a very personal about her father’s life, including his four years in the Army’s 82nd and his battle with cancer.

“Even though he knew he was dying, he dealt with life as it came, and always had a positive attitude. That is one of the most heroic things that anyone could ever do,” Cara says of her father.

It wasn’t an easy story for Cara to write. Despite the fear of judgment not just of her writing, but of her representation of her father, Cara submitted the story to a writing contest. It won. She placed 2nd in the 2015 Spotsylvania County Teen Veteran’s Day Writing Contest.

Cara didn’t just write it to heal herself. She wrote it help heal others.

“Maybe other teens who have gone through similar experiences as me can be comforted by my words,” Cara says of the story.

What is clear about Cara is that her young mind understands a fundamental truism in writing. Whether it is marshmallows springing to life, memorializing her father or historical romances, writing is about connections. It’s about creating something that cuts through the confusion and pain to reach another person.

Perhaps Cara understands this because she has known suffering. But there is more to Cara than loss. To talk to her is to talk to a vibrant young woman who oozes potential and positivity. She’s a girl whose love of musical theater causes her to break into song in the middle of the day. She easily admits to her clumsiness while downplaying her obvious talents. Not only has she won writing contests, she has also starred as Ariel in a school production of The Little Mermaid. She’s a real, complex girl who has the same worries as most teens.

“At times I struggle with the normal fears that come with being fifteen, like fitting in and meeting new people,” Cara admits.

Cara describes herself as an imaginative, God-loving, intelligent, performer and bibliophile. She left out an important descriptor, likely a symptom of her humility. Cara is a writer. She’s not the kind of teen writer who scribbles a few lines in notebooks and hides them in a drawer, collecting cobwebs and dreaming of the day she sees her stories in print.

At 15, Cara is already an award-winning writer and soon to be published. Her story called The Letter, which is loosely based on her grandparents’ love story, was chosen to be part of an anthology from her writing group, the Riverside Young Writers, part of the Virginia Writers’ Club.

She credits the writing group with giving her a safe space to share her work and recommends potential writers join a writing group or create one.

“I cannot recommend joining a writing group highly enough. It is such an amazing opportunity because you get to be in an accepting environment with other kids around your age who share the same love of writing that you possess,” Cara says.

Cara and her story serve as a lesson for any girl or woman who wants to follow her dreams. You cannot let tragedy or difficulty stop you. If you don’t try, you’ll never know what you can do.

Written by Kristin Kanes