Teen Authors: A Write of Passion
By Meredith Jean Morris
Seldom do I sit down and decide to write a poem; they decide when they want to be written,” says Phoebe O’Neill, a senior at All Saints’ Academy in Winter Haven. “Oftentimes I find myself, shampoo in hair, scribbling as fast as I can on a soggy notepad. I talk into my phone in the car sometimes, and once I wrote on a cardboard box.”
At a time when many high school seniors are celebrating the nearness of graduation, Phoebe celebrated the recent publication of her book, “Gone,” a collection of original poetry.
“The process was longer than expected,” she says. “I don’t mean to discourage anyone from publishing. The work paid off. I self-published through Amazon Print-on-Demand. Essentially, whenever someone orders a book, a book is printed. That way I didn’t have to order 2,000 books that I was never going to sell. It was cheaper and easier. My dad was a major help with the process. He has a history with publishing, and his knowledge was beneficial.”
Madison Beckett is another local teenage writer who has successfully published a book of poetry. Her book, “Of All Things; Love,” was published through Amazon’s CreateSpace, and is available online and at Richard’s Fine Coffee.
After graduating early from Winter Haven High School, Madison took a semester off from school to work on completing the publishing process for her book.
“I wanted it to be visually appealing, and something I was really proud of,” she says of her decision to self-publish. “I didn’t want someone with a business major putting it together at a publishing company. I wanted more control and a cheaper alternative.”
Both Madison and Phoebe says they have been writing for most of their lives, and putting their poetry in a book form was a natural progression.
“I have always liked writing; it was something that seemed to come naturally,” Phoebe says. “Poetry was also something I enjoyed but it didn’t hold much of my focus. My freshman year of high school someone showed me a TED talk by Sarah Kay, a famous spoken word poet. That video opened up the flood gates. What’s so great about spoken word is that there is so much content on YouTube. I spent hours just watching different performances. From there, poetry grew to become a major part of my life.”
Phoebe has competed in national spoken word competitions, and at poetry clubs and cafes in New York City.
“I first started performing four or so years ago at the Bowery Poetry Club in New York City,” she says. “It was a weird scene and I loved it. They really took me under their wing and made me feel as if I could be whoever I want. They still make me feel that way and I’m really thankful for that. I also perform at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe in New York City.
“I do much more watching other poets live than I do performing though. I have a lot to learn from them and I really try to soak it up. I appreciate both the formal and informal versions of spoken word, but I feel much more comfortable doing my own stuff. If a poem is written, it can be performed, but my spoken word poems have a lot more rhythm to them. The beat makes it easier to memorize”
For Madison, her interest in writing was in her genes.
“I’ve always had an interest in writing,” she says. “My great grandfather and my great grandmother both worked for a newspaper, and my dad’s a writer. In school, they taught us forms of poetry, but for me, it’s really condensed stories getting the emotion out, and cutting out unnecessary adjectives.”
One of the thrills of having a published work is seeing the reactions of readers, Madison says.
“When you’re a writer, you’re faceless unless you’re someone like J.K. Rowling,” she says. “When I see people reading my book, it’s an unreal feeling. I went to Richard’s to get a coffee right after my book was published, and I saw a girl there reading my book. It didn’t feel real to me. I wanted to be like, ‘That’s my book!’ I was crying happy tears on the way to my car.”
Both Phoebe and Madison plan to continue their artistic endeavors, but are focusing on college admissions in the immediate future.
“At this point, I’m writing college essays more than anything,” Phoebe says. “I want to do another book, but I also need get into college. When I’m older I want to do a book called ‘Growing Pains: A decade of poems in chronological order.’ Poetry grows with the poet and I think the process is beautiful. I really want to capture that, but I have a couple of years to go before I can start on the project.”
Madison is planning to start school at Polk State College in January to complete her associate’s degree with the goal of transferring to New York University. She wants to be an English professor who stays in touch with her artistic side.
“All of my interests are artistic,” Madison says. “I love photography and music and play the guitar. Music is like poetry.”
She says putting her poems to music might be the next thing she tries.
For other young aspiring authors looking to publish their works, Madison has some good advice.
“Nobody is going to take you seriously when you talk about it,” she says. “You’re going to have people tell you you’re naïve, that you need to find a safe career. But, the moment you publish, you’ll know it’s for you. Writing is who I am. I would be miserable in med school.”
Phoebe O’Neill’s book information is available at Phoebe O’Neill’s Amazon author’s page.