How to publish student writing
Pt. I: the basics
Student writing can be arresting and breathtaking in a way that is entirely unique. Few adult writers take the risks that students do, and that’s almost always the charm: the unpolished idea, the unexpected turn of phrase.
Therefore, whether you hope to publish a high-schooler’s essay on climate change, or a six-year-old’s poems about ice cream, your best strategy is to use a light hand with the editing pencil. Student voices are powerful without much adult oversight.
That said, there are a few important things to keep in mind. Counsel student writers to avoid topics that jeopardize their safety or the safety of friends and family. Mentions of criminal activity, references to unresolved immigration status issues, or other sensitive matters should not be published. Of course, matters like these might be very important for a student to write about personally. With that in mind, help young writers determine what material is appropriate for publication by speaking to them about their audience of readers, and the risks and benefits of publishing potentially sensitive material.
In the same way, you can coach young writers to consider their audience when they make choices about using strong language or adult themes in fiction they write. Encourage them to consider a wide audience, and to craft work that is best suited to their intended reader. This is a conversation that will evolve as students become older and their topics of interest become more complex.
Overall, the path to a stunning student publication is to first honor the original voices of young writers. Edit lightly. Celebrate the strange stuff and the off-beat ideas students include in their work. Encourage them to be themselves and build their authentic voice as a writer with an audience of readers. And respect their hard work and courage as writers by providing the best possible design and materials for their writing projects, whether in a hardcover book, a chapbook, or beyond.