NewPages welcomes Chicago Young Writers Review to the scene, “a space uniquely created with the K-8 students in mind” says founder Daria Volkova. A native Chicagoan, Volkova wanted to preserve Chicago’s influence on her as a dynamic, diverse, multiethnic and multicultural city in their organization’s name. “We encourage young authors from all backgrounds to submit their work. In fact, we’ve had the most enthusiastic response from the communities of color and immigrant communities in and around Chicago. We also wanted the name to speak to our mission. There is an abundance of literary magazines for older writers, but there are less accessible spaces for the younger kids with whom we work. By including the ‘young writers’ within our name, we are stating exactly what we are and who we were made for. We are a playground (forgive the pun) for young creators to gain confidence in their work and blossom into stronger readers, thinkers, and writers.”
CYWR accepts submissions of all types of written work, but writers are also invited to submit artwork to accompany their pieces. CYWR publishes several times a year within a month after their contest deadlines, plus semi-annual issues with rolling submissions. The publication is available to read online through an interactive magazine on the CYWR website, so contributors and subscribers across the nation and around the world can access it at no cost. CYWR also produces a PDF version that is available for download. “Out-of-state grandparents love this!” Volkova says. “It is easy to email or print a particular story, and perhaps mount it at the place of the highest honor—whether it is the notice board, heirloom chest, or the family refrigerator. Some writers like to use the PDF files to create their portfolios.”
Her passion for giving back to the educational communities that have been formative to her as a writer gave her the motivation to found CYWR.
Professionalism is a key element behind the scenes at CYWR as well. Working alongside Volkova are Natalya Androsova, an award-winning writing and dissertation coach with over two decades of experience teaching writing. She has coached professional writers and university writers of all skill levels—students, staff, and faculty. Natalya has been running Writing and Graduate Student Support at Ryerson University in Toronto, where she has also been teaching Writing for Wellness to staff and faculty and acting as a dissertation coach for graduate students. And Brandon Seyferth, who was awarded a prize for poetry by Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress, Maxine Kumin. He has been a professional writer for the world’s largest online musical instrument retailer, Reverb.com and has had his original music and lyrics featured on large market radio, including Chicago’s WXRT. He has also had his music and lyrics featured in film festivals, including the International Film Festival of Cinematic Arts, Los Angeles.
Volkova herself is a class of ’23 student at New Trier High School in Winnetka, IL. She is an English tutor, a dancer, reader, writer, talker, and “enthusiastic user of parentheses.” Herself a participant and winner of multiple high-school writing contests, Volkova realized how much she would have loved to have her writing published while she was still in Elementary and Middle school. Her passion for giving back to the educational communities that have been formative to her as a writer gave her the motivation to found CYWR.
Given this strong editorial arm, writers who submit their works can expect a solid process. Volkova explains, “First, we go through submissions to identify the few we get that aren’t fit for publication because they don’t match our guidelines in terms of length, original content, and so on. Then, we carefully read every remaining piece. For contest entries and for general publication, we evaluate them based on originality, creativity, ideas and concepts, the use of voice, style, and descriptive language. From there, we compile our final picks into a magazine issue. We do light edits for typos and the like; because our writers are young, we don’t expect perfection. The effort and courage to write and put their work out for the world to read are far more important to us. Once a writer’s work is published, CYWR holds exclusive electronic rights to it for one month and non-exclusive electronic rights thereafter so we can include it in our online archives. All other rights belong to the author.”
“giving young people a chance to practice their voice is imperative to their understanding of the world, and a literary magazine has been the perfect outlet to do so”
Coming off the tail end of a pandemic seems a difficult time to start up any kind of literary publication, but Volkova was not deterred: “Our mission at CYWR is to give K-8 kids a fun and engaging incentive to experience first-hand the rewarding nature of writing, and thereby contribute to building the foundation for their personal growth as students, citizens, and individuals.” Volkova says she launched the non-profit organization with the intention of giving back to, and expanding upon, the work of the educational communities that formed her into the writer and person she is today. “As someone who one day hopes to enter the field of education in a professional capacity, giving young people a chance to practice their voice is imperative to their understanding of the world, and a literary magazine has been the perfect outlet to do so.” To further this ideal, CYWR was built from the outset as a non-profit organization—”keeping every step of the publishing process entirely free ensures that there are no financial barriers to entry, and the opportunity is open to any child that wishes to share their talents,” Volkova assures.
And the efforts have provided some positive results, as Volkova expresses, “The greatest joy has been interacting with the kids who’ve submitted their work and being able to see the world through a child’s point of view through their writing. Telling our young writers that their stories, the creative ventures into which they’ve poured their wonderful imaginations, are going to be featured in a magazine elicits such joyful reactions. The excitement that comes as a result of putting work and creative energy into writing is the very result that we are trying to foster and nurture. Feeling that joy and pride in a job well done encourages our writers to keep on writing, and eventually turn those skills into lifelong talents.”
“We could all benefit from looking at the world through a child’s eyes, and through reading their work, we come away with a bit more wonder in our hearts.”
It’s important, then, that these young writers also have readers with whom to share their work. Readers coming to CYWR can expect works of young writers in all genres. “Our writers gravitate towards short stories and poems,” says Volkova, “but we also receive plenty of book excerpts, songs, non-fiction essays, and scripts. The joy of reading work by young writers comes from seeing their unadulterated imaginations come to life in creative worlds, characters, and descriptions. Our writers both use their own life experiences and their inventiveness to craft their work. Whether fiction or non-fiction, readers are given the gift of getting to understand children’s perspectives and gain insight into their minds. We could all benefit from looking at the world through a child’s eyes, and through reading their work, we come away with a bit more wonder in our hearts.”
The first issue of the Chicago Young Writers Review featured works by Anya Sophia Zhang Leckerling, Zoe Sectzer-Rubin, Eleanor Frazier, Chelsea Galantowicz, Sophia Petri, Benjamin Sutphen, Andrea Uzelac, and Harriet Otto.
Stay tuned to the future of this great new publication.
Looking to the future, Volkova shares, “While getting one’s writing published is a reward in itself, we would love to work with businesses to act as sponsors so that we can honor the diligent endeavors of our contest winners with prizes. Additionally, as the magazine grows, we would love to expand our team and take on more passionate volunteers to continue to make sure that this non-profit makes as great of an impact on the young literati community as it can.”
Volkova also wants NewPages readers to know, “Our current open contest, which closes June 30, invites writers to submit ‘The Story That Made Me Feel.’ We ask writers to submit a story that filled them with a feeling—happy, joyful, sad, wise, silly, moving, or calming—that was strong enough to make them write about it! It can be any feeling at all, as long as the story didn’t make them feel indifferent. The length and genre guidelines that apply to submissions for general publication apply to our contests as well; all guidelines are available on our website. We will inform contest winners at the end of July, and selected works will be published in August and September of 2022. Also, we plan to launch a new contest in August of 2022—stay tuned to the announcement on New Pages.”