BRING OUT YOUR PAPER LANTERNS
Here's something a little different for you. And, I must add, very exciting.
Answering a call to address the lack of YA related platforms and publications for young people in Ireland today, Ruth Ennis, Grace Kelley and Amy O'Sullivan put their brains, enthusiasm and talents together and came up with...Paper Lanterns: The Teen and Young Adult Literary Journal.
Creating a space for teenage writers, artists and readers, this is a journal especially for them. It taps into the vast body of talent among Irelands' youth to allow a forum for expression and to "hear what they have to say about loss, love, magic, books, the environment and the universe." This is no mean feat, especially launching such a project in the middle of a global pandemic. But with the challenge accepted, the response is glorious.
Within the 50 plus pages of Paper Lanterns, there is some very fine writing indeed. The Creative Writing section is separated into Under 18s and Over 18s, featuring poetry and short stories that will move the heart, give pause for thought and even make you giggle. Complex, gutsy and refined, these young people have given genuine voice to an array of feeling and observation that is somewhat staggering and deserves to be celebrated. Each and every contribution by young writers is a thing of wonder, but I give special mention to A Pipe Dream by Jessica Dunne (age 15) for an insightful, stirring glimpse behind the simplest of moments and The Truth of Power by Celia Jenkins; an intrepid fantasy piece that left me wanting more.
Paper Lanterns also seeks to relay interviews, essays and information of interest to young people with the Features section. The interview with out-going Laureate na n'Og, Sarah Crossan gives insight into her time in the position and the #WeAreThePoets project encouraging young people to express themselves through verse. (Judging from the offerings here, it has been an incredible success.) It speaks of her previous writing and queries the approach taken as Sarah moves from writing teen/YA novels to writing for adults. There is a marvelous interview with Karina Clifford (bookseller extraordinaire and a former colleague of mine) discussing her online incentive, #ReadIrishWomenChallenge. An intriguing essay on adolescent mental health in YA fiction, Breaking the Silence by Ben Screech brings a very powerful view to light. And an essay on discovering diversity in ballet, A Poppy in a Field of Daffodils by Rebecca Downey (age 14) shows a staggering depth of consideration, poignancy and writing skill while opening a point of discussion that clearly filters throughout many aspects of the social structure left fundamentally unconsidered.
Add to this a cracking reviews section covering books that are, in my opinion, "must-reads" and you have a well-rounded, fascinating journal that really is the full package. The reviews by young people themselves are of particular interest as they are the ones who can truly express the qualities of a 'good book' for them.
An urgently important and positively wonderful new literary incentive for young people, Paper Lanterns gives a voice to the interests, talents and concerns of a desperately under-represented group. It is with great anticipation that I look into the future to view the journeys it will take us on. In a time of even greater uncertainty than we have faced before, we need to understand the views of young people...for it is really their world. And it has always been the writers and artists that have held up the light for us to follow.
I will end with a quote from the opening editorial of Paper Lanterns because I believe it expresses so much more about this labour of love presented to us. From the author Carole Borges;
"No my friend, darkness is not everywhere, for here and there I find faces illuminated from within;
paper lanterns among the dark trees."