A Youth Platform Called Parallel Ink

by Robyn Ong Hsu Yin, Victoria Junior College 

Parallel Ink is a literary and art e-zine for aspiring 12-18 year old artists and writers, with an impressive collection of creative writing and art curated and completely run by teenage editors, illustrators, translators, web developers, and social media managers. Their story began in 2012, when a group of friends, on the verge of separation, decided that in order to “continue making cool things together”, they would start a magazine.

Today, Parallel Ink is a truly international effort, with teen writers and editors from all over the world contributing to each new issue of the magazine. Co-founder Jamie Uy, alongside some of her fellow staff members, and––via a video recording––the newest addition to the Parallel Ink team, its editor-in-chief, 15 year old Shannon Sommers, joined us today to give us some tips on surviving the world of writing and publishing, as well as to tell us a little more about the inner workings of Parallel Ink.

As a means of measuring our own writing abilities, the editors suggested that we attend or participate in various writing competitions––despite this, they also cautioned us against comparing ourselves to other writers too frequently, and on placing too much emphasis on these comparisons. Editor-in-chief Shannon Sommers regaled us with the story of how she had recently discovered that another girl had just been named a New York Times bestselling author at age 12, and how that had impacted her as a writer––here she told us of the detriments of unnecessary comparison, and how the achievements of other writers should have no bearing on how we perceive our own work, because their successes do not mean that we have somehow failed. “You’ve got to give yourself breaks sometimes,” she said, advising us not to be our own worst critics.

We were also told not to falsify our own emotions for our writing––for instance, not all poetry has to be sad or joyful, or to follow a certain prescribed formula. The Parallel Ink editors advised us here to write whatever rang most true for us, personally, and not to be constrained by what we had seen be done in the past.

The talk given by the Parallel Ink editors also covered the topic of how to get noticed by a publisher, should you wish to submit your work to one. They stressed the importance of the resume, and talked us through the best ways to write a cover letter and a bio (a short summary of one’s interests and achievements, to be submitted to publishers alongside your work). One useful tip was that we ought to keep our cover letters short, and to address them specifically to the editor of the publishing house we wanted to submit to, and that we ought to detail exactly why we wished to submit to them––research on the publisher, we were told, is key.

Overall, the Parallel Ink editors’ talks were truly inspiring ones. “Every artist’s journey is different,” they said. One of the very first pieces of advice that the editors had for us was to write from the heart. The editors told us, with personal anecdotes along the way, that though the writing you produce might not always be universally loved, the fact that you created it for yourself is something significant in and of itself.