On the Other Side: Teen writers and editors produce their fifth Lake Erie Ink writing anthology

“As conflicts sit stubbornly in our path, the future in our heads transforms into a vague and constant mind bender. But the hope? It’s still there. It’s the tiny light that can explode into a spectral supernova.”

This passage was written by an author you may not have heard of, yet you may just be intrigued by this short prose. What might surprise you more is the author is a teenager named Hannah Holt—one of many teens featured in this year’s Lake Erie Ink’s Teen Anthology, “On the Other Side.”

The anthology was compiled from more than 50 short stories, poems, essays, and visual art pieces submitted by approximately 60 teens, including Holt, ranging from 12 to 19 years of age.

Lake Erie Ink (LEI) began publishing an annual anthology written and edited by teens six years ago. The goal of the project is to showcase the talents of Cleveland-area teens while also educating them on writing. 

Amy Rosenbluth, executive director of LEI, explains how important it is that the teens are learn about writing, editing, and forming an anthology, yet they are also given the freedom to choose how this book is completed. 

The point is that they're learning,” says Rosenbluth. “And then they make the decisions about order and layout, chapter titles, all of that.”

This year is especially significant, as the group received its highest number of submissions ever, according to teen editor Sanjana Vedyvas.

“I think a part of the reason for that may be because school hasn't been in-person for a while,” says Vedavyas. “People have had a little bit more free time to themselves and a little bit more time to introspect.”

The anthology’s theme and title, “On the Other Side,” was created by LEI’s Teen Editorial Board, which is composed of 13 high school students who gather submissions of original teen writing and compile them into a professional publication.  Editorial board members have the chance to learn firsthand about the editing process and publishing industry while giving voice to youth from across the region. 

LEI began accepting submissions that connected to this theme in August 2020 and accepted submissions into December.

It was then up to the editorial board to meet virtually every week to decide what submissions to include and where to place them within the anthology. 

Ironically, some of the editors report it may have been easier for the editorial board to meet online this year, because of the pandemic,  as opposed to the usual in-person meetings.

“It's the first time we've done an anthology online,” says another teen editor Anthony Koonce. “It was easier overall to collaborate on Google Docs and a little more convenient to meet quickly.”

From the start, this project was created by and revised by teenagers with the final draft of the anthology then being sent to teachers at LEI finalization.

“They actually take ownership of the project from the very beginning,” says Rosenbluth. “The teens themselves are the ones who collect the work, and then they do the editing with assistance.”

The teens even made a promotional video back in November to advertise the anthology to teens as well as explore what this year’s theme could mean to each of them.

For these teens, the beauty of the theme “On the Other Side” is that it could mean anything from any perspective—even for the teen editors.

“The pandemic was definitely on my mind,” says teen editor Anothony Koonce. “What lies on the other side of that and those challenges?”

For Vedavyas, however, she drew from her dual national identities both as an Indian and an American. “I've spent like half my time in America, half my time in India,” says Vedavyas. “On the other side really reminds me of the other country that's on the other side of the world.”

The four chapter titles— “Self and Soul,” “Sense and Experience,” “Struggle and Sorrow,” “Imagination and Euphoria,”—exhibit this similar duality of always seeing the other side or perspective to each situation.

Rosenbluth says that this is especially effective from the perspective of teenagers whose lives can be rapidly altered on a daily basis yet are still able to find stability in the events that stay the same.

“The whole world changes,” says Rosenbluth. “[Yet] they're these other parts that never change, which I think is kind of powerful.”

The anthology can be purchased starting at 7 p.m. on Thursday, July 22 for $12. To celebrate the release, LEI is hosting a virtual reading at The Inkubator through Zoom. Registration is required to attend the book reading and can be done any time before July 22.

The book reading will include an open mic session at which teen editors will read excerpts from the anthology, and copies of the book will also be sold at the event. 

In the end, this year’s teen anthology hopes to put both these young writers’ perspectives and skills on display.

“This book is also dedicated to those with the words to say and stories to tell,” states a dedication in the anthology, “to the stories, we are afraid to write the words, we shout from the rooftops stories that make us come alive.”

Read more articles by Danny Fogarty.

Danny Fogarty is a journalism major at The Ohio State University. As a journalist, he loves the opportunities to meet a variety of different people. He especially likes that any story can captivate the audience, no matter the scale. He has worked with his college newspaper at Ohio State, "The Lantern," and also works for 270 Gridiron sports league in central Ohio. With Freshwater, Danny hopes to meet many new people and bring life to all the amazing stories throughout Cleveland.