Last spring I didn’t imagine that we would be putting together another teen issue during the pandemic. Yet, here we are. The teen writers and editors have come through despite the challenge of more than a year away from school, friends, normalcy.
We decided to have a large issue, a sort of record of what teens have been thinking and creating while in lockdown. Some of the pieces are direct reflections of the pandemic, such as “Mind v. Room” by Jenna Lane. Others are whimsical remembrances of ‘the before.’ Karen Lee’s “Between the Chairs” makes us think of an ordinary day in the classroom, as does Adrienne Mueller’s accompanying clay minis images. Simple and sweet.
While teens often focus their creative work on identity, this spring we have a great number of identity pieces. These range from gender identity discussions, such as Avery Garcia’s stream-of-consciousness “The Barbershop” and Chris Grimstad’s “Voice = Medium” to reflections on knowing the self through family culture and traditions as in the heartbreaking “A Child’s Story” by Kanghui Zhang or “Red is a Lucky Color” by Jocelyn Chen. All of these pieces remind us of the power of diversity, a theme encapsulated in a poem by Ajay Sawant.
I always enjoy the launch of an Inlandia issue. This teen issue is particularly satisfying. Our authors and artists range from thirteen- to nineteen-years old. In reading and viewing their work, you’ll see how deeply they mature over that period of life. You’ll also see in the thirteen-year olds the seeds of the ideas that the nineteen-year olds bring to fruition. How wonderful to know that young people are continuing to create through very difficult times.
A note on the nature photos: while we did get many submissions of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction, we didn’t receive many submissions of artwork. I think this is because we lost connection with some teachers who promote the Inlandia teen issue to their students. I believe the artists will be back for the next teen issue as our world opens up. Meanwhile, I’m including a lot of my own outdoor photos as a reminder that hope is thick in the air. A few are from the ‘before’– a parrot in an Ecuadorian rainforest, a time playing tourist in New York, a graveyard in the Irish midlands. However, the great majority are images I snapped during the pandemic. It has been a sorrowful time for me, full of loss. The greatest among those losses are the passing of my husband’s sister and both of my parents. To keep my spirits up, whenever I wasn’t caring for my parents, I would take walks in nature. As plants began to bloom here in inland Southern California, I snapped photos. I focused on native plants including cacti, yucca, and wildflowers. I started looking for heart-shaped rocks and, to my surprise, found them everywhere. I also came across several painted pebbles, inspirational gifts from strangers.
The yucca pictured above bloomed in the California Botanical Garden in Claremont. When I came across it, under a sky both cloudy and luminous with sunlight, it felt like nature’s candle, brightening the journey out of the darkness. I felt the same sensation in reading submissions for the teen issue. I hope these works lighten your spirits as they did mine.