The 19th issue of elementia, featuring amazing writing and artwork on the evocative theme of “the unknown,” is now available at Johnson County Library branches.
elementia is Johnson County Library’s award-winning teen literary magazine published to represent and uplift young adults. The magazine’s editorial and design committees include high school students from all over Johnson County who volunteer their time to read and discuss each submitted piece. elementia accepts original poetry, fiction, nonfiction, graphic stories, photography and illustrations.
The editors had assumed that theme might elicit entries about outer space, aliens, and other mysteries. But, as Monticello youth information specialist Emma Fernhout says, they were surprised.
“The teens who submitted weren’t as much interested in the unknown of the faraway world as much as dealing with the unknown in their own lives,” said Fernhout, one of three youth services specialists who facilitated the project with the teen editors.
The Library received poetry and prose about relationships, changing friendships, family dynamics, even explorations about math.
This year’s issue once again highlights teen creativity and originality. Gaby Kill, a 19-year-old KU freshman who was in her third and final year as an elementia editor, said they received poems that were uniquely introspective and intimate.
“That’s the beauty of elementia,” she said. “Not even the editors who curate it know what it’s going to turn out like.”
Submissions were more hopeful than expected, even though they were written during a time of pandemic and fear.
“It’s people finding all the good in the bad,” Kill said. “We were all really surprised at how uplifting it was.”
The elementia publication process was a labor of love. This year, the magazine had 16 teen editors from Johnson County and the metro area. That included 14 poetry/prose editors and five designers, with some teens doing both. Meetings were held virtually over Zoom.
Riley Strait, 15, an Olathe North High sophomore, worked on both editorial and design tasks.
“I ended up loving the experience,” he said, adding that it was a very deliberative curating project. “It’s a lot more considering what’s best for the magazine rather than what I like. It’s a good experience working in a professional environment like that.”
He learned a lot about different writing styles, was captivated by fantastic artwork, and appreciated the collaborative, respectful editing process.
Kill is majoring in computer science but writing is a passion for her. elementia helped her forge enduring connections with incredible young writers and editors.
The editorial facilitators were Fernhout and Tiffany Rinne, a youth information specialist at the Blue Valley branch. Cassandra Gillig, Leawood Pioneer branch information specialist, facilitated the visual arts side.
The group met once a month starting in September 2021, drumming up submissions and planning for next year. Beginning in January and through February, the editors culled through 922 submissions from teens aged 13-19. It’s a big commitment, with editors spending 50 hours reading submissions and reviewing art. They had 16 hours of meetings, including most Saturdays in February.
They ultimately accepted 54 pieces of poetry or prose and 61 art pieces, 12 percent of entries, so it was very selective. Fernhout appreciated the articulate debates over submissions, as editors advocated for different works.
“Teens want to change each other’s minds,” she said. “We love that. It ensures every submitter gets a fair and fighting chance to be in the magazine.”
The accepted pieces, she said, were outstanding. “I always feel very hopeful about the future of literature from these kids,” she said. “They are so experimental and they are so committed to their own voice.”
Working on elementia brought out the best in those involved.
“It’s been very motivating and fulfilling to see young people pushing through so much of the burnout and stress of the last year to really be enthusiastic about creating something so beautiful,” Fernhout said. “They are so smart. They know what they like.”
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