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Rising Stars: Meet delmetria millener

Today we’d like to introduce you to delmetria millener. 

Hi delmetria, so excited to have you with us today. What can you tell us about your story?
Our story is not one that calls for tissues and tears. It’s a noneventful one. There was a dire need. We’re filling it. It’s that simple. It’s that necessary. We’re #TeenWritersProject, a Dallas-based nonprofit organization that provides a collaborative and engaging space for teens to write and be published. We also publish a quarterly Lit Zine through which we offer writing and job training opportunities that not only improve the reading, writing, social, cultural, and creative literacy of teens, they expose teens to the viable career options that exist within the writing and publishing industries.

Teenagers today are the documentarists of our time. Our griot. Our storytellers. They need a platform to tell their stories, and ours, in a space that allows them to think on their own and develop their own ideas without judgment. So, we give them that space and room to be creative with it.

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
At the beginning of 2020, we had hosted writing workshops in Dallas, Austin, and San Francisco, and we were geared up to do them all year long across the US. Our plans were to publish the writings of the teen workshop attendees in a print Literary Journal until we could grow enough to establish our own imprint and publishing company. But then COVID happened and shuttered businesses and our plans.

Fortunately, though, we were able to pivot and readjust our plans so that we could still navigate in this new “normal.” Like everyone else, we went virtual. But, instead of publishing in print, we had to publish digitally. It was the best thing that happened to #TeenWritersProject. Being online has helped us connect with teen writers around the world! And our leadership team is amazing! Our teen editorial board is made up of teens in the US, Africa, and Turkey, and we have published teens in all those places and in Asia, India, and Thailand.

Our only struggle now is funding. Since schools, libraries, museums, and galleries are re-opening, we want to be able to offer #TWP Quarterly, our Lit Zine, digitally and in print, as we’d initially planned. But printing and distribution costs are expensive. We’re relentlessly looking for corporate funders so that we can sustain what we’ve built and grow our organization into an Indie Lit Publisher for teen writers. We’re currently fundraising to offer a Teen Writer-in-Residence Program for teen writers to collaborate for one week during the summer with a publishing team of literary experts, in an uninterrupted location, so that they can work on developing a writing piece and themselves as writers.

Thanks – so what else should our readers know about your work and what you’re currently focused on?
Even at nine years old, I knew with unadulterated certainty that I wanted to be a literary artist. But I didn’t know how to become one. Without obvious resources, teachers, community leaders, camp advisors, or “disruptors” to tell me how to pursue writing as my career, I had to figure it out on my own. I did the only thing that made sense to a 17-year-old: I subscribed to the New York Times. I couldn’t wait for the paper to arrive so that I could scan the Arts section with no idea what I was looking for. Then, one day, I read about a place called, “The Writers Room.” It was open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Adult writers could come and go and just write all day and night. I wanted to be in that place! I wanted that place for teens. That was 35 years ago. They’re still open. I want that sustainability too.

I was a professional writer more than 30 years before I started teaching. It wasn’t until I started teaching high school English nine years ago that I realized teen writers need support. #TeenWritersProect began in October 2018 as a writer’s discussion and critique group in a high school classroom, with 15 members, a different name, and an uncertain future. Membership fluctuated but growing pains and growing gains held the group together.

“#TeenWritersProject is certainly necessary for me,” says Kendall Stafford. “As the teen coordinator for #TWP’s Teen Editorial Board, delmetria’s passion to help teen writers not only keeps me intentional and accountable with my writing, it provides me with leadership opportunities that will not only benefit my future as a writer but will help when I go to college. It is a passion project made into a non-profit organization that makes me feel supported in my art and allows so many other teens all over the world also to feel that love. #TeenWritersProject gives teens with dreams too big for standard methods of teaching a community unified through writing and art,” says Kendall. Kendall is a high school senior in Dallas, Texas.

What has been the most important lesson you’ve learned along your journey?
The most important lesson I’ve learned along this journey is that you have to keep going. No matter what. You have to be able to pivot your business. You have to humble yourself and ask for money and whatever it is you need. It’s not for you. It’s for your business. You have to work when you want to play. You have to know that your success rides on how much you believe in yourself and what you’re doing and that it is directly related to the work you put in even when you don’t feel like it’s working.

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