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Rewind five years, and a few weeks before starting ninth grade, I was published for the first time. I danced around my house, shrieking about my lifelong dream being accomplished. I called everyone I knew, forwarded them the email, and smiled for weeks. First, it was a nonfiction piece about my best friend in the world, then some poems, a fictional story, and soon, I had a presence on teenink.com. Within a few months, I had been published in a “real, printed magazine, oh my god.” People were reading my work in Teen Ink. My voice suddenly mattered.

I had been dreaming of being a published author since the third grade, though I had barely written a full story. My eyes were wide with admiration for my favorite writers. I wanted to be J.K. Rowling, but I didn’t know how. I was only fifteen; who was I to tell people about the world, about feelings, about self-consciousness, love, heartbreak, friendship, and all that lay in between?

Then I found Teen Ink. For teens, by teens. I crossed my fingers, and submitted my work. A metaphorical shooting star across the sky, and a dream was answered. In this day and age, being published on the internet isn’t the be-all end-all. Yet, when I saw my first piece on the website, it was like the entire world had changed. I could be a writer, and my age wasn’t stopping me.

Fast forward five years, and a lot has changed since ninth grade. The toxic, drama-filled “friendships” of high school have faded into healthy relationships. My grimace as I looked into the mirror has faded into a smile. I’ve learned to walk confidently with my head held high. In my first year of college, I was a true cliché, and I found myself.

Some things haven’t changed. I still have Harry Potter posters on the wall and dream of being as talented of a writer as J.K. Rowling. Though now, I actually write. I’ve participated in a quirky, internet tradition known as National Novel Writing Month and written three novels. They were terrible, wordy, self-absorbed little things – and they were some of my proudest accomplishments. I’ve submitted stories to magazines, and I’ve recently had a memoir published on another literary magazine’s website.

I’ve completed my freshman year of college as an English Secondary Education major. I’m going to teach my future students that their voices matter. That was a lesson Teen Ink helped to teach me. My words, the silly ones I scribbled into my diary, were important. My thoughts on issues didn’t need to be dismissed. And my dream of being published wasn’t out of this world. It was right within my reach.

Fast forward almost five years since Teen Ink first published me. I turn twenty tomorrow, and my teenage years have disappeared. I have a computer drive filled with stories, a college major that I love, and a voice that Teen Ink encouraged me to use.

I’ll never forget being published. I always had a voice, and Teen Ink always listened. Thank you for everything.



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