Online magazine for teenagers debuts

Few visit Web site for last month's inaugural issue of `Teen `Zine'

May 19, 2006|By MALLORY MAHER | MALLORY MAHER,SUN REPORTER

Teen `Zine went live with its first issue last month, and its reporters acknowledge that most of the Web site's hits have been from them.

"Not a lot of people know about it," said Teen `Zine site designer Melanie Dell. "I'd like to have more people look at it and check it out."

Melanie, a homeschooled 10th-grader, is one of about three-dozen students who contribute regularly to Teen `Zine, a growing online publication sponsored by the Howard County Public Library. Teen `Zine will be published quarterly and feature a variety of works, including creative writing, cartoons, an advice column and "do-it-yourself" articles.

Katie George, teen specialist at the Miller branch library, oversees the production of Teen `Zine, which began with a general-interest meeting in October.

"It's totally produced by teens for teens," she said. "I really try to stay out of the process as much as I can."

George and her staff found that producing the first issue went smoothly, but getting people to read it is another story.

"We just premiered our very first issue on April 3, so it hasn't been up very long," George said. "We are looking for some more ways to get our information out there."

The staff has relied on word of mouth to spread news about the Web site, but the goal is to create a link on the Howard County library's home page to better advertise it.

Some of the writers feel that Teen `Zine would get more readership if it was produced in printed form and published more frequently.

"One thing that I would like to see is for the `Zine to be in print so that you can pick it up and read it," said Nirshiee Arumugam, an eighth-grader at Mount View Middle School.

Caroline Kessler, a sophomore at Marriotts Ridge High School, added, "It would be cool if it came out more frequently."

George also hopes that Teen `Zine will expand to other library branches. "There's been so much interest from around the county," she said. "I'm trying to find a way that we can expand so people can participate at the branch near their home. That way, they don't have to come out here."

Herb Malveaux, teen specialist at the east Columba library, said he would like to bring Teen `Zine to his branch if teens there are interested.

"The best part about it is the creativity that it spurs in the kids," he said. "A lot of them are interested in doing poetry or other kinds of writing, and they need an outlet for that. We have some writing programs, but this would be an ongoing activity that they could participate in."

Many of the teens involved are passionate about writing, whether it be short stories, poetry or current events.

"Writing is an outlet for me to say what I want to say," said Mary Dumler, an eighth-grader at Dunloggin Middle. "It's easier to say what I want on paper instead of out loud."

Rohini Bhatia, a freshman at Mount Hebron High, agreed. "It's a way to get your thoughts out and let the world see what you are thinking," she said. "You can change the world in your own small way."

George said that she does not like to assign stories to her writers because she wants them to write almost anything that interests them. "I like to keep it flexible," she said.

She added that there have been some instances when students left not feeling confident with their initial idea but came back with an article that was "passionate and intelligent."

The Teen `Zine staff stayed on the conservative side for their first issue. "I have been really impressed with the quality of work submitted so far," George said. "Everyone has been enormously respectful in terms of not writing anything inappropriate."

Teen `Zine is open to students ages 13 to 18. Writers are in the process of creating their second issue, which is scheduled for July 5.

The group meets on the third Monday each month at the Miller library in Ellicott City to share opinions, edit what they have written and bounce ideas off each other for future articles.

"When we are there, it's not a formal meeting. We discuss our views on the world and what we think other teens should know about," Rohini said. "It's a fun place to get together and speak our minds."

The Teen `Zine can be found online at www.hclibrary.org/teenzine.

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