Today I have a very special interview! I had the chance to speak to three board members of the Young Writer's Initiative, which is a great new organization run by many talented and inspiring individuals. TYWI is incredible in everything they do, from contests to editing services to workshops and new programs.
The three ladies featured in this piece are Sylvia Bonillos, Sophia Kunkel, and Riya Cyriac. I hope you enjoy what they have to say!
The first member of TYWI I spoke to was Sylvia, who is one of the Editing Team Leaders.
L: First thing first, please tell us a bit about yourself!
S: I’m a high school graduate and I’ll be attending my local community college to earn my associate’s degree for transfer in chemistry! Writing-wise, I run my Instagram account @reaperwrites where I share my poetry and other short pieces of fiction. I also participate in many writing competitions across Instagram held by fellow writers!
L: What is your role with TYWI?
S: I am one of the two current Editing Team Leaders and my main focus is on the Editing Boot Camp Program. In this two week program, I provide documents and expectations for our volunteers to meet and/or exceed before they start to work with clients. I communicate with our editing volunteers and assess their work while providing them a simulated experience of what they can expect in the future.
L: What services do you think benefit young writers the most?
S: Although I may be biased, I believe our Editing Program has the most benefit for young writers. A professional edit is recommended for any and all writers that are looking to publish, but our free editing services can help young writers see their work in a new light with the helpful comments and edits provided by our amazing volunteers! With multiple types of volunteer editors available, young writers can gain a range of feedback on their work whether it be a collection of poems or a novel.
L: Can you explain what the Lit Journal is?
S: Our bi-annual literary journal is a collection of writing, art, and photography from young people in our community! It is a great opportunity for all creative young people to have their work published and can help them gain an audience. Submissions to our first issue of our literary journal have closed, but we’ve opened submissions to our second issue with the theme of diversity (more information can be found on our website tywi.org)! Additionally, winners of our contests will be published in our literary journal and all entries will be considered!
L: What projects do you want TYWI to pursue in the future?
S: We have some ongoing projects that I’m very excited about, but I don’t want to give too much away while we’re still working on them. Instead, a fun event that I would love to do in the future would be a 24-hour wake-a-thon type writing workshop! It would be so chaotic and so much fun.
L: Oh, that is such an amazing idea! Lastly, do you have any advice for young writers?
S: I truly believe that The Young Writers Initiative is a great outlet for all young creatives, but I think the key to growing as a writer, artist, or whatever you may be is to put yourself out there and share what you make with the world! There can be a lot of anxiety and uncertainty when sharing what you create, but you must if you want to connect with people and build an audience.
Even if you write the perfect story or have crafted the best painting that humanity will ever see, will you be satisfied keeping it all to yourself? If so, I applaud you and hope that one day we can see your masterpiece. If not, you have to build an audience that will appreciate your work. The world is a big place so you can start by sharing it with the community!
Next, I got to speak to Sophia, who is the amazing Marketing Director at TYWI.
L: Tell us a bit about yourself!
S: My name is Sophia Kunkel and I am the Marketing Director of TYWI. Besides being involved with TYWI, I also run my own writing club through my local library, manage a writing account on Instagram that has just exceeded eleven thousand followers, and have finished a few novel drafts here and there. When I’m not writing, I can usually be found with a good book (one of my favorites is Pride and Prejudice) or attempting to get in shape for Cross Country.
L: What is your role with TYWI? Can you describe what you do?
S: I am one of two Marketing Directors at TYWI, so the jobs are split between us (Nour is the second Marketing Director, and she’s done an amazing job so far). I am specifically in charge of managing the Instagram account (like posting inspirational writing quotes, for example) and creating the newsletters, though I try my best to help out where I can. I’ve also hosted my own Instagram Live Workshop on Flash Fiction.
L: It sounds like you do a lot of amazing work! What pushed you to get involved with this organization?
S: When I saw that TYWI was looking for board members, I was immediately intrigued by their proposition because I’m always looking for ways to help other young writers find their way in the world. Not every writer is given the chance to improve themselves and their skills, and I felt like this program would foster a safe, nurturing environment for them. Everyone deserves an opportunity for self-betterment.
L: What is your favorite part of working with TYWI?
S: My favorite part of working with TYWI is interacting with the team. We are all so different, and yet we have come together for something great. Our members of the art board are also extremely impressive; their concept art for our variety of contests has just blown me away. Lastly, everyone involved is unbelievably dedicated to our cause and I couldn’t be prouder of how far we’ve come.
L: What services do you think benefit young writers the most?
S: The most beneficial programs that we offer are our Editing and Beta reading services. We have an amazing team who is ready to tackle any need necessary, which is nice because there are not many programs that do this with efficiency. Through these services, young writers are able to improve their pieces and become better writers in the long run.
Last, but certainly not least, I spoke to Riya. She is the founder of TYWI.
L: Could you tell the folks at home a little about yourself?
R: I’m Riya Cyriac, an avid writer, blogger, and the Founder/Executive Director of The Young Writers Initiative! I love to write poetry on my writing account @rmcwrites, and I adore connecting with other young and eager writers! Outside of the writing world, I am an Bharthayatam Intern at my dance school, a Model UNer, a choir kid, and someone that loves meeting other awesome leaders and creatives!
L: Why you did you start this organization?
R: The start is actually kind of funny. I was stressing over the thought of paying for college, so I thought, why not start an editing business and make some bank? Evidently, that didn't work out because 1. Editing isn’t my forte and 2. Editing costs are really high and I don’t know anyone that would pay much to have a newbie editor like me edit their stuff.
This revealed a problem that many young writers faced: access to affordable editing, beta reading, and publishing services. Thus, the idea was born: I wanted to provide a free, volunteer based service that gave young writers the opportunity to get their work edited, beta read, designed, reviewed, or published.
L: What are your main services? I know you offer a lot!
R: We have the following:
Editing : We do copy edits, developmental edits, blurb edits, poetry edits, and advanced edits
Beta Reading: We want to make beta reading as stress free and helpful for you.
Contests : We host bi-monthly contests with different themes. All entries are considered for our lit journal.
Lit Journal : Bi-annual publication of excellent work from young writers.
Consulting (exclusive for volunteers): If you’re a volunteer, we are free to consult you on anything and everything related to writing/art/college/volunteering/etc.
Cover Design: We have aspiring cover designers excited to design some awesome covers for you.
Book Reviewing : Have you published your book or posted it on Wattpad? If so, seek our review services, we have great and passionate reviewers.
L: Can you tell us more about the new mentorship program?
R: We’re so excited for this one! Mentors are such useful advisors for young people. We’ve seen many mentorships around, but none specific to young writers. That’s why we’re creating a program, launching this July, dedicated to young writers. Applications are currently out. Volunteers of TYWI get priority applications, so volunteer to higher your chances of being accepted. Do check it out!
L: I'm personally so, so excited for this program! What an incredible opportunity.
My final question is, why would you encourage young writers to get involved?
R: Getting your work edited and critiqued is daunting, but it’s the only way we can improve. TYWI gives you the opportunity to get those high quality services for free as long as you are passionate about your craft. I also recommend submitting to our literary journal and contests because they are resume enhancers that are super important when querying agents or trying to build your rep as a writer. Volunteering is also a perfect way to hone your craft, and you get really cool exclusive benefits.
Follow these ladies and TYWI on Instagram: