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Maria Susan Proulx, Author of Teen Talk: Insight on Issues That Matter To Teens and the Adults Who Care About Them MAG
Maria Susan Proulx is a 17-year-old author and a local of the Mount Washington Valley, NH. She began writing as a columnist in "The Day" newspaper when she was 12 years old and her work would later inspire this book, Teen Talk: Insight On Issues That Matter To Teens & The Adults Who Care About Them. She is excited to work with Teen Ink and advance their mission of giving teens a voice. When she isn’t writing, she enjoys skiing, hiking, and running in the White Mountains.
1.) What inspired you to write this book?
"I’ve always turned to writing as a creative outlet. Before my kindergarten teacher even taught me how to properly hold a pencil, I would recruit my mom and older brother to transcribe stories for me. It wasn’t until I got my column, 'Teen Talk,' in my local newspaper that I had an opportunity to share my message with others. The editor of the paper actually shot me down a couple of times and I remember being so excited when he finally said yes that I ran outside to tell my parents and didn’t even bother to put on shoes. I would tack every new column to my bedroom wall until I eventually ran out of space, and seeing that visual progression of my work reminded me of how far I’ve come and all the people I was able to connect with. It inspired me to help teens and adults on a broader level, which is why I was so elated when 'Teen Talk' agreed to publish my book as a compilation and extension of my most impactful column topics."
2.) How did you balance schoolwork with being a published writer?
"The nice thing about the book is that I actually wrote the bulk of it over the course of five years. Some of the chapters are based on columns from seventh grade, some from as recently as a few months ago. I only faced direct academic pressure as a result of the book when I was in the thick of the editing process. I remember coming home right after school and revising and adding to my old columns, then doing my homework after. I missed out on a few school events too because I was just so busy. But it was definitely worth it in the end."
3.) You write about teens feeling inclined to fit in. How did your peers respond to you writing a book?
"Anyone who knows me knows that I’ve wanted to publish a book for a long time. My two best friends were especially excited, given that I’ve had this dream since we all attended elementary school together. Whenever I need advice, I turn to them, so it was exciting to see some of their guidance in print.”
4.) You cover many pressing topics for teens. Which topic was the most challenging to write about, and why?
"When I started writing my column, I wrote to please. But as I grew more immersed in the world around me, I realized it would be shameful not to use my platform to shed light on important issues to my teenage audience. My column on why sex ed is a needed part of the school curriculum is the first in which I took a stance on a contested issue and stuck to my convictions regardless of repercussions from my community. This experience freed me from the opinions of others and allowed me to be authentic with my audience."
5.) Did you ever imagine you would be a published author before graduating high school?
"I always dreamed of publishing a book, but never thought my goal would come to fruition this soon. I was lucky enough to have parents who fostered my love for reading and writing by indulging my frequent trips to the library, the ever-growing piles of books strewn about the house, and my fervent ramblings about my latest story, so I attribute my original interest in writing to them. I’ve also had a few incredible teachers, notably my fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Miner, who encouraged me not only to write, but to publish. I owe a lot to them as well. I’m incredibly grateful for all the people who came together to make this experience possible and honestly still have trouble processing that the book is actually published."
6.) How much preparation and research went into this book?
"Like I said, this was a five-year undertaking. Every chapter required something a little different, whether it was listening to a transgender high schooler tell of the bullying and bias she faced (and how she rose above) or staying up late into the night chatting with friends and applying the lessons they’ve taught me to the words I share with others. Learning from the teens around me has played a critical role when crafting my own message to be shared with readers."
7.) Why did you decide to use real life events and personal experiences?
"Being vulnerable with my audience allowed me to connect with and provide solace to teens. Whenever I needed motivation to do something scary like run for class office my freshman year of high school, I would always tell myself that whatever the outcome, good or bad, I could write a column about it. I built a community with my readers based on shared experiences, whether they be mental health struggles during the isolation of the Covid-19 lockdown or dealing with the death of a friend."
8.) How did you get involved with Teen Ink?
"I’ve actually been an avid fan of Teen Ink for years and had my work published on their website and magazine a few times before I considered reaching out to them about publication. Since they are devoted to giving teens a platform to share their voice and my book sought to achieve the same mission, we seemed to have a natural compatibility."
9.) What advice can you give to aspiring teenage authors?
"Put your work out there in any way possible. The school newspaper, a literary magazine halfway across the country, a self-published book by your poetry club — it doesn’t matter. For a few years, I took a short story writing class at my community center and bought a book called Novel & Short Story Writer’s Market that listed hundreds of printing houses, magazines, writing contests, etc. And for two years, I would pour through that book, highlight and bookmark potential publishers, and reach out to them. I got a ton of rejections, but there were a few yeses mixed in there too. Also, write what you know. Readers can tell when you aren’t genuinely passionate about a topic."
10.) What is next for you? Will you attend a university? And do plan to continue publishing books?
"I’m currently a senior in high school, so college is definitely on the horizon. I visited the United Nations Headquarters as a freshman, which compelled me to study international affairs in college and work in an intergovernmental organization in the future. I think it’s important that the role my column plays in bringing pressing issues to the attention of teens and parents continues even after I leave for school, so I’m working to find a new author to continue my 'Teen Talk' column. I do hope to publish books in the future, but currently plan on helping Teen Ink launch its Young Author Series to promote the voices of other teenage writers."