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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Open Discussions About Writing » do we want to include teenagers?

   
Author Topic: do we want to include teenagers?
Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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I've received an email from a 13-year-old who is writing a book and would like to join the forum.

I explained that one reason for the age cut-off of 18 or older is that participants should be able to expect some level of maturity and experience in those who give them feedback on their work.

This individual would still like to know what others think.

So, should we make an exception?

Is there any reason you all would want to include anyone younger than 18?

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Denevius
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I'm on another website that teenagers infiltrated through the suggestion of their teacher last year, and that was pretty much a debacle. However, that was a lot of teenagers, a classroom full, and on that site in question, entire stories are submitted, some of which the content probably isn't suitable for teens. But then, many teens have probably seen worse in mainstream movies, so there's that.

I guess I kind of think that there are probably already sites for teens where they can share their writing and get an appropriate level of response from their peers. Even with adults it's a challenge to maintain civility in workshops, and the anonymity of the online world makes it worse. Plus, the actual swapping of manuscripts on this particular site happens off of this site, so should a 13 year old really be having private communication with anonymous adults?

Maybe he/she should dig around and find an age appropriate writing workshop website?

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MAP
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Denevius makes some good points. I seriously doubt anyone here would do anything inappropriate, but just the possibility is scary. Thirteen is really young, and as a parent, I wouldn't want my child swapping stories with adults I don't know.

I think it is safest if the teenager sticks to teen writing sites. I'm sure there are some out there.

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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Very good points. Thank you! I agree. We wouldn't want to facilitate anything questionable regarding minors, whether such things would actually happen or not.
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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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It would be nice to be able to point teen writers at such websites. I did give this individual the link to the Alpha Writing Camp <http://alpha.spellcaster.org/>, but if anyone knows of any other teen writing workshops or websites, please let me know?
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Merlion-Emrys
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Philosophically, I wouldn't have a problem. Age and maturity are often unrelated concepts anyway, and content wise, well truthfully Hatrack is quite tame; I'm actually one of the relatively few people here who does anything much above a PG-13 so to speak.

That being said, we live in a world of needless fear, paranoia and rules that are conceptually meaningless and yet can have horrible practical effects, so I have to agree with my esteemed colleagues. Almost entirely due to the fact that, in this day and age, it's pretty scary as an adult to have any interaction with a minor, but especially "private" interaction via the internet.


Legendfire, a site run by a former Hatrackian, accepts members of all ages; it's a password protected forum so whole stories can be posted and critted openly. That might be another good place for him/her to go.

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extrinsic
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I write R and MA, not pornography but strong adult situations and language. I don't expose my younger generation family members of teen age to those, and also another reason I don't post more frequent fragments. I wouldn't want my own children exposed to them on my account, if I were a parent, though children are exposed to them by their peer group cohort. That's where I believe they should learn to test their life's complications, how to use what they learn from testing them, and how to manage and cope with adult situations and language, within the comparative safety of their same-age tentative identity formation cohort.

A thirteen-year-old writer could reap and can glean by following the Hatrack conversation without participating what is available at Hatrack in terms of writing guidance from what's posted without being exposed to the group's direct communications.

I've taught writing to young people of all age cohort groups. A determined thirteen-year-old is a joy to teach. One constant and unfortunate drawback of that age that doesn't suit Hatrack is the very real potential of being overwhelmed by inappropriate adult influences. For example, writing about personal vulnerabilities, which can't help finding its way into writing, and the possibility of receiving couched responses in terms of writing but as life advices that should only come from parental guardians and guardians or age peers immediately available to parental scrutiny at that age. The multiple layers of meaning in such discussions as we have here at Hatrack are potentially too complex and too persuasive for a thirteen-year-old and likely contrary to a parent's best intentions. In other words, we are not skilled life counselors; we are determined though at times contentious writers.

A practical reason for excluding teenagers from Hatrack is that we only use words. Communication involves more verbal intonation and nonverbal gesture expression than words, that young people are still learning to express and process. Possibilities of miscommunication and misunderstanding using just words is problematic enough for adults. In-person writing workshops, for those reasons, are a best course for a thirteen-year-old, though schools don't start creative writing coursework until at least eighth grade.

I'm young enough to believe age shouldn't matter but old enough to know age does matter and why.

Five years waiting to join Hatrack may feel like half a lifetime to a thirteen-yeard-old. Waiting is not the only option, though. In the meantime, I'd suggest reading the texts on writing that come up in discussions here, especially Orson Scott Card's and Damon Knight's. And read the fiction discussed here. Read, read, read, and read some more. I won't recommend any online writing venues as suitable for the simple reason that, in general, online writing venues worth their troubles are grueling and heartbreaking, and ones that aren't worthy are cruel free-for-alls.

Edited to add: An in-person, age-appropriate writing workshop for teenagers should involve a skilled and compassionate moderator who can salve and console and ameliorate, if not prevent, wounded feelings. Hence, such a moderator, and writing instruction in general, for the age group should focus exclusively on encouragement. As writing instruction does in grade school up through undergraduate freshman and sophomore years. Baring, of course, mechanical style development.

[ October 13, 2013, 04:02 AM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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MAP
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I googled teen writing sites, and I found this article Teen Writers: 10 sites where you can post stories and get feedback. Hopefully, he/she can find something there.
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Robert Nowall
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Not that I'm actively involved in some of the heavier "criticism" aspects of the site, but dealing with the young and their literary work could be problematic in a number of ways.

On the other hand...I'm not a fan of telling the young something they've done is great-wonderful-beautiful if it's not, and coddling them won't do them any good in the long run.

Still on that other hand...I was writing and submitting and passing around some really awful stuff when I was fourteen, and I learned to take it...

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Reziac
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The usual cutoff for forum sites in general is that you must be 13 or older.

That said, I don't really care how old a participant is on the calendar; I care whether they can hold a reasonable discussion. I have BBS-era friends I 'met' when they were 11, passing easily as rational adults in ordinary conversation.

As to the galloping paranoia about 'stranger-danger' and the internet... it's so overblown I don't know where to start. Kids nowadays are so 'protected' that they have no chance to grow up (and part of growing up is learning to deal with and overcome wounded feelings). See

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-462091/How-children-lost-right-roam-generations.html

and a zillion articles at

http://www.freerangekids.com

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MAP
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Reziac, I see your point about stranger danger. Sure it is rare, usually children are molested by people that they know not strangers. But it is just a precaution, like wearing a seatbelt while driving or a bike helmet while biking or not walking in a sketchy neighborhood at night. 99.99% of the time people are fine without the precautions, but that one time someone isn't, they may pay a huge price for it.

Besides, kids don't want to be "free range" anymore. Now it is a fight to get them outside and away from TV and video games and ipads, all of which give them instant entertainment of whatever they want whenever they want it. I don't agree that these issues are due to over-protective parents. Honestly, my children are growing up in a completely different world than I did as a child with completely different set of challenges.

[ October 13, 2013, 05:09 PM: Message edited by: MAP ]

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Merlion-Emrys
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I completely agree that the actual danger to "children" (I don't consider adolescents to be children personally) is nearly non existent. However, because our culture is obsessed with the notion it is ever-present, the danger in this case is to us, not the "child." One wrong word seen by the wrong person, and someone without the slightest ill intention can wind up with their life wrecked.
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MAP
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What? It may be rare, but it's not nearly non existent. It happens everyday somewhere.

http://www.fbi.gov/news/stories/2011/may/predators_051711

http://www.internetsafety101.org/Predatorstatistics.htm

Really guys, is there a problem with being overly cautious about something that can destroy a young person's life or even end it?

I wish we lived in a world where this was nearly non-existent, but I'm positive that every single one of us knows at least one person who was molested as a child whether you realize it or not.

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Merlion-Emrys
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Oh it happens...but a large percentage of molestations and such are at the hands of family members, family friends etc.

I could go on about the subject as I have my own set of views on age,"adult"/"child" interactions etc...but at the end of the day, I feel that in our current society the danger of allowing something like this would be more to us than to the "child."

I don't think we have any predators on Hatrack. I can't even express how much I'd like to help a young person on the storytellers path, but due to our cultures love of witch hunts I'd be terrified to actually do so, unless perhaps it were a relative or such.

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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There was a Young Writers Workshop forum here on Hatrack for a while, and OSC shut it down because some of the participants became very poor examples of their age cohort (to put it mildly). It was really more than the moderator could handle.

I have to say that in this particular case, the individual did not evidence the level of articulate communication I would expect from someone suited to this forum.

Thank you, MAP, for that link. I'll pass it on.

Merlion-Emrys, thanks for suggesting LegendFire. It looks like an interesting site.

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