Under the Madness Magazine began in the summer of 2021, the pandemic looming large, among so much other chaos, but imagine being a teenager during this time, trying to make sense of it all. Created by and for young writers 13-19 years old under the guidance of Alexandria Peary, New Hampshire Poet Laureate, Under the Madness Magazine got its name from the staff who felt it spoke to the confusing whirlwind teenagers face—political polarization, global warming, and inequity. “The whole phrase that came to mind,” Peary says, “was ‘under the madness lies literature,’ but it was too long for a magazine name. It was refined to retain the spirit of the name: how writing and creative expression help teens stay grounded when the adult-made sky seems to be spinning.”
Publishing three issues of poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction a year open access online, the editors are residents of New Hampshire who are for the most part teenagers. (There have been a few college interns and volunteers.) “The intent in starting this publication,” Peary explains, “is to provide New Hampshire teens with leadership opportunities in the creative arts and to empower them to make decisions benefiting fellow teens from New Hampshire, the United States, and around the world.
“Under the Madness seeks to provide publishing opportunities to teens outside the United States and to build international teen connections and friendships around creative writing. Helping teens is hugely important because it helps them step beyond the claustrophobia of just writing for grades and teachers. Writing is far too meaningful in our lives to be confined to the classroom. At Under the Madness, we advocate young people sending their creative writing out for publication even if they have no intention of becoming an English major in college or a writer by trade.”
In addition to Peary as Editor-in-Chief, the current staff includes Managing Editors Rebecca Colby and Sophie Rose Riopel, Copy Editor Isabella Greubel, Poetry Editors Grace Frink and Grace Denney, Fiction Editor Helen Carle, Nonfiction Editor Polina Datsko, and Nonfiction Reader Rieth Breed.
Writers ages 13-19 at the time of submission can be assured their works will be treated with professionalism throughout the process. “Submissions must be in English,” Peary says, “though we welcome translations. Writers are invited to send 2-5 poems; fiction not to exceed 5,000 words (short story, novel excerpt, flash fiction); and creative nonfiction not to exceed 5,000 words (personal essays, flash nonfiction, interview, literary journalism, humor, lyric essays, mock genre, memoir excerpts). Names are removed before the work is shown to section readers, and we endeavor to respond within three months.”
The opportunity to work with a Poet Laurate mentor is incredible for young writers, but Peary shares the benefits she has observed as well. “A definite positive has been watching the editors grow in their leadership roles. During the 2021 North Country Writers’ Festival, I was bursting with pride watching the editors explain to the virtual and in-person audience the mechanics of running the magazine. Another positive experience has been our first international partnership: Issue 3 contains a special half issue devoted to Brazilian youth writers.”
Readers can find those contributions and more when they visit Under the Madness Magazine. Peary explains, “Readers can expect to find a diverse range of pieces from teens from countries including Brazil, China, New Zealand, Singapore, and elsewhere, as well as writing from different regions in the United States. Readers can also expect helpful insights into the publishing world, tips to jumpstart writing, interviews, and other resources at the magazine blog. We have hosted unique virtual events including a teen Submit-a-thon and a reunion of a rising star fiction writer in his thirties with editors at the magazine who first published him when he was a teen.”
Some recent contributors include Alaa Atoui, “The Lost Light” (Issue 3); Wenhui Chen, “Girls” (Issue 3); Dora, “Time Passing” (Issue 3); Elaine Lara Rosa Forman, “A True and Original Story of Rebirth” (Issue 3); Tarak Prakash, “How to Forgive Yourself in Five Easy Steps” (Issue 3); LF Ender, “Polarization is One of Humanity’s Greatest Curses” (Issue 3); Katarina Coakley, “The Mightiest Plastic Bag of Insecurities” (Issue 2); Hannah Rouse, “Underground Girls” (Issue 2); and Noah Chiles, “A Place” (Issue 1).
“Our future plans,” Peary says, “are to partner with schools and organizations outside the United States to offer special issues devoted to international teen writing. We also seek to increase individual submissions from writers from all regions outside New England, and we will be offering contests in at least two genres (poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction) in conjunction with Issue 4 and Issue 5.”
Surprisingly, Peary added this concern, “It’s been challenging trying to enlist teachers to encourage their students to send their writing to the magazine. That’s been hard for me personally to understand since I usher my own students from all majors toward publication, and their bursts in confidence have been wonderful to witness.”
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