Interview with Olivia Alger

olivia alger

Olivia Alger spent three years as a creative writing major at Interlochen Arts Academy. She’s from the Chicago area, but has lived in Wisconsin and Minnesota, as well. She has received two Gold Keys, six Silver Keys, one Honorable Mention, and an American Voices nomination from the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards. Her work has appeared in eight journals worldwide. She was a 2016 YoungArts Finalist in Short Story, an American participant in Between the Lines at the International Writing Program, and a 2016 member of the Adroit Mentorship Program. In 2017, she was a semifinalist candidate for a position as a U.S. Presidential Scholar in the Arts.

Q: What writing have you had published? How did you accomplish this: a collection of your own, magazines, or something else? What was the process like?

A: I was incredibly lucky to attend Interlochen Arts Academy, an environment in which opportunities to share our work were encouraged. Eight of my individual pieces (short stories, poems, and essays) have been published in nine different literary journals, and the process for each one differed greatly. Some of these publications were in journals based within my high school (The Red Wheelbarrow and The Interlochen Review), cultivating a communicative editorial process due to the close proximity and familiarity of the editors. Other pieces were accepted by larger magazines headquartered across the country, or magazines that solicited from an international pool of writers (Glass Kite Anthology, The Contour, Polyphony H.S., Teenage Wasteland, and Noisy Island). I communicated greatly with some of these journals regarding revisions, while others simply accepted the piece without any changes, leading to limited contact with editors. Despite the varying routes towards publication, each magazine has been kind and patient with me.

Q: You’re trying to get a short story collection published. How have you gone about that so far? How has this process been different from your other experiences with publication?

A: The process thus far has been slow, due to the fact that I currently feel nothing I ever write will be truly finished. I’m constantly learning and growing. This is causes the revision process to flourish, but also to be painstaking — each time I return to a piece, I want to reinvent something. The process of editing my own collection is different than attempting to publish one piece with a journal because it’s so personalized. I’ve never sat with my own work for so long. Still, all nine of the pieces within this collection have been workshopped and critiqued repeatedly by groups of peers and teachers, providing a robust amount of feedback and suggestions.

Q: What advice would you give to other young writers who are trying to get published, potentially with full collections of their own work?

A: Listen to anything and anyone you can learn from. Although I am still young and learning myself, this is perhaps the most important piece of advice I can extend to someone else looking to get published. The greatest thing I’ve understood from working on my project is how the multifaceted nature of writing can be amplified by communication with others. Watching, listening, reading, and learning from anything you can leads to complex creations and art rooted in individualized personality. Try to understand the potential of your writing, but realize it can always be deepened by communication with other art and people.

Q: Anything else I missed that you’d like to add?

A: I think the publishing world for young people is unique because many adolescent literary journals provide opportunities for continued learning. There are countless magazines that offer workshops, programs, and mentorships (oftentimes free and online) in addition to publication. This fosters a diverse community of young writers around the globe eager to continue their education.

Learn more about Olivia: https://jwcdaily.com/2017/05/20/standout-student-olivia-alger/

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