This week publishYOUth spoke with Sophie Guo, a talented high school senior from New York. Through her experiences as an editor for two prominent youth organizations, Zenerations and Dear Asian Youth, Sophie has valuable advice for young writers looking to submit their work. She is also a published journalist and poet, and she has garnered crucial advice for both writing types. Here we spoke with Sophie about exploring vulnerability in writing, the importance of youth platforms, and how students can build confidence and get involved.
What fuels your passion for poetry, journalism, and other writing styles?
SG: I was formally introduced to journalistic styles of writing and media during my junior year of high school. The journalism curriculum offered at my school was incredible and unlike any other English class I had taken before. I learned about photojournalism, the Central Park Five, the Vietnam War, and domestic violence. I am inspired by the ability of journalism to bring awareness to critical issues and to connect human experience on a global scale. Poetry is no different. The orientation and composition of language to drive emotion never fails to amaze me. Poetry has been a way for me to express myself in ways that conventional English does not begin to give me the freedom to do.
You’re currently the Director of Writing at Zenerations, a prominent student-led organization uplifting the changemakers of Generation Z. How has your experience been, and how can students get involved with the organization?
SG: It is an honor to be a part of such a creatively vibrant and inclusive team. During my time at Zenerations, I have gotten to meet and collaborate with so many different individuals from such diverse backgrounds, and I am truly grateful for my experience. If you are looking to get involved at Zenerations, you may visit the team applications page and apply for a position via Google Forms. However, applications are not always available. Additionally, keep your eye out for future events, campaigns, and fundraisers hosted by Zenerations. All organizational updates are located on the @Zenerations Instagram.
Within Zenerations you’ve written a variety of journalistic pieces, one of which being a detailed examination of food waste in America. Can you describe your process of developing such articles?
SG: The most important component of drafting an article idea is figuring out whether or not the topic is relevant and what purpose an article will serve, if any. Once a clear and direct focus has been established, I begin to research, analyzing the topic from various lenses and perspectives. During the writing process, I ensure that my article follows an organized and logical structure.
Your poem, “Inertia”, is a beautifully genuine look into the unspoken vulnerabilities of a relationship. What advice do you have for youth writers wishing to write vulnerable moments, and how was your experience in developing and publishing this poem?
SG: Inertia—like all of my poetry—was written in the depths of the night. It was 3 A.M., and I couldn’t sleep. My mind was incredibly alive. It was probably the combination of fatigue and sheer darkness that allowed me to let my guard down. And suddenly, nothing was off limits. My mind could run free. For young writers wishing to write about vulnerable moments, I encourage you deeply. The more we have conversations about stigmatized or “uncomfortable” topics, the more we will grow as a society.
You’re also currently an Editor at Dear Asian Youth, an influential youth organization led by Asian youth inspiring activism, celebration, and education. How have you seen such platforms for youth voice and writing impact our greater world?
SG: Dear Asian Youth has made great strides in terms of connecting the Asian community across both continents and local communities. It has served as an outlet for young writers to share their stories, and I am genuinely empowered by the literature that Dear Asian Youth publishes. Growing up in a predominantly white community, I am grateful that Dear Asian Youth has allowed me to celebrate my heritage and talk about my personal experiences with those who understand them. Dear Asian Youth and other similar platforms are also encouraging the youth to be more active in politics and social movements, driving the foundation behind future change.
Finally, what would you say to youth writers for building confidence in their unique voices?
SG: I know how hard writing can be. It is so easy to doubt yourself or compare yourself to others. My main piece of advice is to not let the fear stop you from writing. Simply start. The words and sentences may not come naturally, but that is okay. Don’t give up, and work until you are completely and utterly proud of your final product. You should be able to read it back to yourself, and be elated that it is all yours.
Special thanks to Sophie Guo for her participation in this interview and the writing community! Feel free to read her work online, and stay tuned for what is coming next for Zenerations and Dear Asian Youth!