Olivia Scheyer, one of Polyphony H.S.’s well-rounded editor tells us about submitting her first poem ever written to Polyphony, going through the editing process, and loving writing. Read about how Olivia overcame her (and every other writer’s) writing humps…
When did you get interested in writing?
I got interested in the beginning of high school. It really was a gradual build of interest; I never picked up a pen and declared that I wanted to write. I slowly began to experiment, and I learned what I liked and didn’t like.
What do you love most about Polyphony?
I wrote my first poem in ninth grade. It sounded like I was reading from a thesaurus and splashed the words onto a piece of paper. It was on a trip to Colorado and I was trying to capture the natural beauty of the place – not exactly the recipe for an earth-shattering poem. But, I was so proud of that poem. I thought my four-syllable adverbs and adjectives that dangled hopelessly from abstract nouns made a work of art, and I actually submitted that piece to Polyphony. When it was rejected, I was surprised, but I also found myself nodding and “hmmm-ing” at the commentary I received, which exposed me further to the world of writing. I know I was not the first person to submit their first poem ever written to Polyphony. I love that, being an editor, I may be introducing people to writing in the same way that I was introduced over three years ago. That first step is essential, and I always want to give the best advice possible to writers so that they don’t put the pencil (well, usually the keyboard) down after one rejection, because writing, for most people, isn’t a natural skill. And, anyone would be hard-pressed to write a perfect piece without any revisions! Polyphony not only takes the cream of the crop of young writers, but it helps produce the next batch of them.
What motivates you about being an editor?
Soccer players have coaches, instruments have tuners, countries have presidents and writers have editors. Like all of the said positions, I love being able to take on that advocating role and really be there not just to mark “accept” or “reject,” but to be there as a resource for all of the teenagers with a desire to write in the world. On the flip side, I love having the privilege to read pieces of writing that literally and literarily (haha) make me want to bang my fist against the wall at how outstanding they are and at the fact that I didn’t come up with it first.
What’s your editing process?
I always envision the piece published in the magazine. I think about how readers would react to it, and that includes the first impression that the title and beginning words give. I can almost always find something unique and interesting in the pieces that I edit that would bring something to the magazine. And if they’re lacking in other places, I’ll focus my commentary around that. Editing in general helps immensely with my own writing because I just think about what I would say if a piece of mine was a PHS submission. If I can’t imagine someone else reading the piece as if it were published, I’ll revise it. Thinking about writing being shown to another set of eyes changes things completely.
What genre of writing do you enjoy the most and why?
I love all genres, but to be completely honest, I tend to get the most out of a good short story. I think that as soon as people are born, they’re introduced to stories, and stories are the first things that people learn to read. As you get older, the stories get more sophisticated, but the mesmerizing effects stay the same.
What is the most important thing you have taken away from working with Polyphony?
Polyphony is definitely an extremely important resource for young writers to have. Writers are kind of alone in the world, not to get all dreary. But they have to take it upon themselves to succeed in writing, and there is very little to keep them from giving up. Polyphony sort of allows writers to go down a two-way street for once and get the support they need. I also highly value the editing skills that I’ve picked up. They’re so versatile and essential for pretty much any pursuit.
What are your other interests and activities?
I play soccer on my school’s team and I play the cello. I’m also vocal in my school about social and humanitarian issues, but on a lighter note, most people will tell you that I’m a pretty mean baker.
Do you want to pursue your interest in writing further?
I’m a rising senior, and I plan to pursue writing in college. Whether that’s through journalism or a more creative path, I’m not sure, but writing there will be.