In the spring of 2013 Tupelo Press launched the Tupelo Press Teen Writing Center to offer creative opportunities for teen writers in Charlottesville, Virignia. It began as an educational outreach of Tupelo Press, a 501 (c)(3) non-profit, and a long-time vision of its founder and Editor in Chief, Jeffrey Levine.
The fledgling Tupelo Press Teen Writing Center (TWC) invited a few 11 & 12th grade students from each private and public local high school to spend our first month as charter members. As TPTWC began collaborating with local organizations, including WriterHouse, which provided initial meeting space, our charter students helped us develop and design a comprehensive program. They requested more writing workshops, including generative work and revision, opportunities to meet writers and authors and learn about the field, and chances to read in public.
In short, they said, “We want to know we are not alone.” To make it happen, the TWC solicited requests and needs from local English departments and creative writing teachers. We found that only 1 in 10 local high schools had a creative writing program, and only a few others had creative writing classes. Though local schools offer truly excellent English programs and teachers, they welcomed more writing offerings for teens.
The program evolved into a fall series of weekly writing workshops, visiting authors and writers, invitations to a local letterpress printing workshop, a curated tour of the UVa special collections library, and more. The year culminated in a winter chapbook and first annual teen anthology, with covers designed and letterpressed by our teens.
For eight subsequent years the Tupelo TWC hosted a calendar of local teen writing opportunities and contests with links, developed partnerships with UVA and Hollins Universities providing mentorships for seniors creating writing portfolios for submission to colleges and contests. We welcomed interns in the summer and during the school year, providing leadership and publication experience.
Our Tupelo Press TWC was invited by The Virginia Foundation for the Humanities to participate in the development of the first panel for teens, led by Sarah McGuire, creative writing teacher at Western Albemarle High School, offered for two years during the Virginia Festival of the Book. In 2014 we were invited to manage the high school submissions of the Virginia Festival of the Book Teen Writing Contest, and published seven annual Crossroads Anthologies released with teen readings during the Virginia Festival of the Book.
Over the first eight years of the program we debued a fall writing program titled The Memory Bank, kicked off by a writing retreat, with mentorships for seniors, readings and more, followed by a winter and spring of editorial opportunities culminating in the Virginia Festival of the Book Teen Contest and reading.
In 2018 the Tupelo Press Teen Writing Center partnered with three local high schools, St. Anne’s Belfield, Tandem Friends, and Albemarle High School to give the Virginia Festival of the Book the opportunity to focus on The Virginia Center of the Book mission with the Library of Congress to develop the Letters to Writers project while continuing to offer programming, contests, and the anthology to area teens.
In 2020 and 2021 due to COVID concerns we ceased meetings and focused on developing our Memory Bank into a published curriculum to share with young writers and their teachers and sponsors across the country. In the fall of 2022 we are launching virtual creative writing workshops with the goal of bringing creative writing options to teens nationwide.
If you are a high-school-age teen, watch for further opportunities! If you are a published writer with experience teaching teens, consider teaching with us! If you love writing, consider supporting a young author, sponsoring a writing workshop or mentorship. Help us show our young writers the worth of their craft!