As I mentioned in my, #LifeInView| Where Would We Be Without Support? post, I used to be quite shy about showing what I was writing to my friends and family, but I had no problem publishing it online. I think I was I was worried about the personal opinion of what others that knew me, and I knew them. Online, I had the protection of anonymity, I didn’t have to worry about. The website that I turned to was TeenInk.com.
I found it one day while I was doing some googling. The website’s tagline is, “By Teens, For Teens” that’s what attracted me to learn more. Not only can you publish your writing on the website, but they select a few to get published in their monthly magazine. It allows you to connect with other writers, read their work, and have them comment on yours. But there is an age limit for the site, it is called “Teen” Ink. Once you are over the age 19, you can no longer publish to the site, but your work will remain.
In 2009, I found out about Teen Ink’s NYC Summer Writing Program. It was open to girls in grades 9-12 of that school year. The itinerary included: writing courses, individual instruction, guest speakers, and daily outings. Housing was at the Juilliard College dorms. To apply I had to fill out an application and send in samples of my writing. Thousands of girls applied, but they only picked 30 to be a part of the program for that year. I was totally shocked to find out that I was one of them.
(PAE note: This is the video they made of our 2009 NYC Summer Writing Program. You’ll see baby me lol)
Once again, I never shared my writing like that, so to get news that I had been accepted into this program with 29 other talented girls blew my mind. At first, my mom was not into it. She thought it was a big scam and I was going to be sold into slavery off in a different country. She would tell me that multiple times a day. The top really blew off, when we learned that the total cost was going to be $4,000.
This was a two-week trip, so the cost included: meal plan, tours, Broadway shows, museums, etc. We just didn’t have the money. Throughout all of this, we were in contact with John Meyer, who was the owner and founder of Teen Ink. Looking back now, it’s simply hilarious and heartwarming because he would reassure my mom that the program was not a scam and I would not be sold into slavery. He said that they still wanted me to be a part of the program and things would work out.
I kid you not, I remember sitting in my Creative Writing class and over the intercom, I got called down to the main principal’s office. The whole walk there, I was filled with such dread just thinking about the reason why I had been called out of class. His office was on the opposite side of the school, so I had a lot of thinking to do. I walked in, and there was a lady in his office with him, but they were both smiling so I figured I wasn’t in any trouble. She told me that she was from the Board of Education, and she heard that I had been accepted into the Teen Ink NYC Summer Writing Program. She said that she was proud that I had been one of the 30 accepted and that they were going to pay for me to go.
When I say I lost my mind, I lost my mind! I called my mother on the phone and she just couldn’t believe it. Honestly, it wasn’t until we got to Juilliard and she dropped me off did she stop thinking it was a scam. The program was absolutely amazing, I met many wonderful and talented individuals. I’m honestly glad that I went and took the opportunity because I learned so much about myself that I didn’t know before. Sadly, the program is no longer offered.
Even after the program, and leaving my teenage years, I would still help Teen Ink. Occasionally, I would do the freelance reading for them and I kept in contact with John. We would always email back and forth, and try to keep each other updated on life. When we moved to our apartment, I emailed him to let him know our new address, but I never heard from him. There would be a gap in time between our emails, but never this long.
Last week, I emailed one of the editors to ask her and she informed me that he had passed away in January. He had liver cancer. I read the email at physical therapy so I couldn’t break down at the time, but I did when I got home. My grief is new, but he’s been gone for so long and I didn’t even know.
I had a moment last week of questioning myself. I questioned what I share and what I discuss on this blog. I never want to offend anyone by what I write, but at the same time, what I write is coming from my perspective and my life. I know that not everyone shares the same views as me, and that’s okay. But everything just got to be too much, and I needed a break. Then I thought about John, and his continual support and I knew that I couldn’t give up. But I’m going to end this here before I start crying again…