Today, I’m really excited to be spotlighting a brand new YA journal, launching today.
Paper Lanterns is a new literary journal, founded in 2020 by Grace Kelley, Ruth Ennis and Amy O’Sullivan, to be published four times a year.
Acting as a platform to promote the voices of young people in Ireland and across the world, this journal provides new and exciting content for a teen and young adult audience.
It is also perfect for enthusiasts of teen and YA literature; from teachers and librarians, to parents and youth workers.
The journal is divided into three sections: Creative Writing, Features and Articles, and Reviews.
I’m sharing a Q&A with co-founders Ruth, Grace, and Amy on why they started the journal and their aims for its future.
1. What made you decide to start Paper Lanterns?
It was Grace’s idea at the beginning. We did our M.Phil. in Children’s Literature together in Trinity College Dublin. She waited until we finished with our dissertations in August 2019, then approached Ruth and Amy about working on the journal together.
There are so many remarkable journals in Ireland, many of whom have been so supportive of our endeavours, such as Banshee, The Stinging Fly, Sonder and Channel. We were particularly inspired by Children’s Books Ireland’s Inis Magazine and The Moth. While these journals include some teen and YA literature, we wanted to create a journal dedicated entirely to the category.
We are in awe of the remarkable talent of young people writing in Ireland.
The teens in The Lit Festival and Fighting Words produce such incredible art, we wanted to create a platform that showcases their work.
2. What’s the aim of the journal?
Our main aim is to make a literary journal that is accessible to teen readers, as well as adults who love YA literature. There is something for everyone in here: creative writing by and for teen readers, features and essays that give insights into the latest trends, authors and events in the community, and honest book reviews with helpful content warning guidelines.
If you are a young person who loves to read or write, an aspiring or established teen and YA author, a bookseller, a librarian, a teacher, a parent or guardian, or just someone who loves all things teen and YA literature, this journal has something for you.
Teens are at the heart of this journal. We want it to exhibit the truly incredible writing and art that teens produce. It was so difficult selecting which works we should publish for the first issue. The short stories are engaging, the poems are inspiring, the art is breath-taking, the essays are insightful, and the reviews are passionate.
We’re so proud of what these teens have created, and we can’t wait to show them off to the rest of the world.
3. Who are the co-founders? Tell us a bit about yourselves?
Grace Kelley studied Drama and English in Trinity College Dublin, where she specialised in playwriting under the tutelage of Marina Carr. She spent a year of her studies in UC San Diego, where she was taught by writer/filmmaker Chris Kraus.
During her M.Phil. in Children’s Literature, her studies focused on pirates, islands, and fairy tales, most notably, Peter Pan, Captain Hook, and Neverland. Grace’s writing has been shortlisted for The Red Line Book Festival and The Allingham Festival, and has been published with Red Line, Palm-Sized Press, Red Line, and Reflex Fiction.
Grace manages the creative writing section of Paper Lanterns.
Ruth Ennis is a bookseller for Dubray Books and is the teen and YA buyer for the Liffey Valley branch. She has worked in publishing and literary event management and aspires to be a children’s author.
She completed her undergrad in English with Drama in University College Dublin before going on to complete her M.Phil. in Children’s Literature, during which her focus was on the representation of nature in children’s poetry in the contemporary climate.
She has written for Sonder Magazine, the Dublin Book Festival, The University Observer, The International Literature Festival Dublin, The Blue Nib, and frequently reviews for Children’s Books Ireland.
Ruth manages the features section of Paper Lanterns.
Amy completed her undergraduate in English Literature and History in Trinity College Dublin where she discovered to her joy that she could read books for children and young adults and count it as study.
During her M.Phil. in Children’s literature, she traced ownership of books and looked at class, narration and magic in the books of E. Nesbit. She worked as a Marketing and Administration Assistant for Dublin Book Festival and is now working in publishing.
Amy manages the reviews section of Paper Lanterns.
4. How can people get involved in the journal/submit work to it if they want to?
We would love to see your submissions! Submissions for issue two open on 22nd April and will close after three weeks. Our only major requirement is that the content is of interest to a teen and YA audience. So, you have plenty of time to get creating! Submissions are open to anyone over the age of thirteen years old.
For creative writing, we accept short stories (max. 2000 words), poetry (max. 40 lines), and flash fiction (max. 400 words). We also accept artwork and photography and are looking for something really special to feature as our front cover.
For features, you can submit either a completed essay or a proposal. If you have an idea but aren’t sure how to go about writing the feature, please feel free to get in touch with Ruth.
The features section is a collaborative process, and we will help you with your goals, be it research on a topic you love, interviewing an author you admire, or covering news on the latest literary event.
For reviews, we are open to applicants all year round! All you have to do is contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org with your name, address and tell us what kind of books you like. You’ll be put on our list of reviewers and will be sent a book to review on rotation.
For more information, please check our guidelines on our website:
5. Since Paper Lanterns focuses on YA, I have to ask, what are some of your favourite YA novels?
Grace: My favourite YA book is probably Invitation to the Waltz by Rosamond Lehmann. It’s really a precursor to YA as we know it, as it was published in 1932. It’s about seventeen-year-old Olivia, who is getting ready for her first dance.
Disagreements with her older sister, a hairstyle that pinches her scalp, the dread of being asked for a dance by the wrong boy, the sheer hope of being asked by the right boy! And all in one night. It is a timeless, coming-of-age novel that captures the mind of a seventeen-year-old girl so perfectly.
Ruth: Oh, I really can’t pick just one, sorry! It’s honestly a three-way-tie between One by Sarah Crossan, After the First Death by Robert Cormier, and Perfectly Preventable Deaths by Deirdre Sullivan.
It depends on what kind of mood you’re in. If you’re looking for a beautiful verse novel that will make you cry, curl up with One for an afternoon. If you want intense drama and a shocking plot, go read After the First Death. If you’re looking for witty dialogue, magic, mystery and the most excellent villain, Perfectly Preventable Deaths is for you.
Amy: My favourite YA novel is The Wee Free Men by Terry Prachett, the first novel in the Tiffany Aching sequence. It follows Tiffany Aching, a shepherdess who wants to grow up to be a witch. When something evil takes her brother and threatens her land, she must defend it with the help of the Wee Free Men.
I loved the exploration of Tiffany’s connection to the land and her development over the book. It was my introduction to Terry Prachett’s works and opened the door for me to the magic of the Discworld. It’s funny, witty and observant – a brilliant read.
6. What are your aims/hopes for this journal?
Along with expanding the number of contributors per issue, we want to increase our rate of pay. At the moment, we offer contributors a very small fee for their submissions.
We believe it is important for us to reflect the value we see in their work, even if it’s in a small way.
We want to show young writers that their efforts have value and they should expect a fair standard of compensation for it.
While we would like to pay writers more than what we can currently afford, we are working to increase our rates in the future.
This is why fundraising is such a big part of our workload throughout each season. While we are applying for grants, it is the support of our patrons, those who have donated, and those who attend our fundraising events that have allowed us to produce issue one. For that, we will always be grateful.
7. Where do you see the future of YA going in the next few years? And trends you think will be big?
It’s very hard to tell, but we think that YA, particularly in Ireland, has a promising future. We certainly hope so!
The quality of teen and YA literature being produced at the moment is astounding. In Ireland, we are producing excellent teen and YA books, and lots of it.
Take a look at the shortlist of the Irish Book Awards Teen category in 2019; there were so many books shortlisted and, honestly, they were all of an incredibly high standard – how they could ever decide a winner is beyond us! Ireland has always been a country of writers, and this is very much evident in the works produced for a teen audience.
Events like The Lit Festival, which is run for and by teens, and Eason’s DeptCon, a weekend dedicated to excellent panels filled with YA authors, demonstrate the strength of this community.
Even festivals like International Literary Festival Dublin and An Cúirt have been more inclusive of events for a teen audience. Each year, there are more and more young people dedicating their time to these events. It’s lovely to see young readers meeting their favourite authors and asking them thoughtful questions. The community around teen and YA literature is strong and will only continue to grow.
A huge thank you to Ruth, Grace, and Amy for this Q&A.
Paper Lanterns will be available to purchase from 7pm today on the journal’s website.