YARN, Winner of the 2011 Innovations in Reading Prize

Founded in 2010, the Young Adult Reading Network (YARN) is the first independent online literary journal dedicated to young adult (YA) literature; they publish short fiction, poetry, essays, and interviews, as well as an editors’ blog and lesson plans for teachers. While there have long been hundreds of journals publishing curated short-form literature for adults, the few existing YA journals published primarily teen writers. YARN was founded to showcase a diversity of fresh voices in YA by including teens alongside established writers and emerging adult writers, to elevate the YA genre and promote literacy. The YARN editors believe that readers are made, not born—and they are made with each work they read. The journal provides a broad swath of content: exclusive interviews with luminaries like Meg Cabot and Mitali Perkins, boundary-pushing stories like those by Jonathan Papernick, and finely crafted poems like those by college student Allison Malecha. Its content acts as gateway reading, enticing readers to return to YARN and to venture into their local libraries and bookstores.

2014 Update:

Why is reading vital?

The world is an increasingly complex place, with divergent opinions and underlying tensions causing violence to erupt in every corner of the globe—and in our own back yards. Reading is a powerful way to combat this scary trend because, as recent studies have shown, reading literature actually promotes empathy and understanding.

Tell us about some accomplishments or successes you’ve had since winning the prize:

2015 is YARN’s 5th Anniversary! We are excited to be offering Spring/Summer edition of YARN this year—it’s the first time we’ve published new material in the summer, and we hope to find new readers this way, since the core of our audience (teens) tend to be off school with lighter “required” reading loads. We hope that with more free time, teens will turn to YARN for “non required” reading that’s still smart, challenging, and good at the beach.

All our recent work can be seen free at www.yareview.net.  We would like to highlight a few recent items, though: Our 2015 Pushcart Nominees; our 2014 SCBWI Magazine Merit Award Winner “Into the Vast”; our fun 2014 Random Word Contest, for 2014’s National Poetry Month, judged by John Corey Whaley, NBA honoree and 5 Under 35-er..

Electric Literature, Winner of the 2011 Innovations in Reading Prize

Photo of Electric Literature's quarterly formatsElectric Literature is the quarterly journal and upstart publishing company The Washington Post called “a refreshingly bold act of optimism.” Its mission is to use new media and innovative distribution to keep storytelling a vital force in popular culture. Since its founding in June, 2009, the company has published “some of the country’s best writers” (The New York Times): Pulitzer Prize winner Michael Cunningham; MacArthur “Genius” Grant winners Colson Whitehead and Lydia Davis; literary favorites T Cooper, Kevin Brockmeier, Lynne Tillman, J. Robert Lennon, and Lydia Millet; and heavyweights Rick Moody, Jim Shepard, Aimee Bender, Javier Marías, and Joy Williams, among others. Electric Literature has over 150,000 followers on Twitter and is successfully expanding its audience through YouTube videos, iPhone and iPad apps, and other ways of using new technology and media to redefine what it means to “publish” in the digital age. In October 2010, Electric Literature created its own app-building software because they couldn’t find an existing one that met their needs or their budget. It was a success; thirty-five percent of the journal’s readership uses their app to read the anthology on the iPhone or iPad. To share that success, Electric Publisher now develops book apps for other organizations on a sliding scale, to make sure that they’re affordable.

2014 update:

Why is reading vital?

Electric Literature’s mission is to amplify the power of storytelling with digital innovation. Reading transports us in to other lives, places, and experiences, salves our loneliness, stimulates our minds, and grows our empathy. Digital innovation increases the impact of reading by delivering it instantaneously, at low cost, to anyone with an internet connection.

Tell us about some accomplishments or successes you’ve had since winning the prize:

Electric Literature has grown significantly since winning the Innovations in Reading Prize in 2011. In the spring of 2012, we launched Recommended Reading, a free, online magazine dedicated to providing an intimate reading experience to a broad audience. In that time we’ve published 142 issues, featuring fiction by emerging talent alongside visionaries such as Lydia Millet, Steven Millhauser, Karen Russell, Jim Shepard, and A.M. Homes. We have also published cherished stories by literary heroes such as David Foster Wallace, Katherine Anne Porter, Janet Frame, Donald Barthelme, and Grace Paley. With over 70,000 subscribers, Recommended Reading is evidences of the public’s appetite for smart, accessible fiction.

In Summer 2014, we received our non-profit status and relaunched our website electricliterature.com, reaching 2.9 million unique visits in 6 months. In January 2015 we launch Okey-Panky, an online magazine of short things, modeled after Recommended Reading and edited by the novelist J. Robert Lennon.

Kore Press, Winner of the 2011 Innovations in Reading Prize

For eighteen years, Kore Press has been defined by innovation. Whether it’s publishing the highest quality women’s literature, educating youth, or doing creative community programming, they have been on the edge of using literature to advance progressive social change. As a community of literary activists, Kore is dedicated to engaging the public through several visionary, creative writing projects. The “Grrls Literary Activism Workshop” is an after-school creative-writing-as-activism program that engages youth with America’s long, literary history of passionate writing intended for communal, public circulation in the world rather than in the private form of a book (using t-shirts, video PSAs, readings, podcasts, poems wrapped around tampons and loaded into a repurposed tampon machine that travels to public restrooms). “Bounce Back” uses literature in surprising ways to raise awareness and create safety for queer students, teachers, and staff on high school and university campuses (using a 40-foot banner, a blog, a newspaper ad, posters in elevators, coffee cup sleeves, repurposed political yard signs). And with “Coming in Hot,” Kore created, produced, and toured a play based on a collection of poetry and memoir by women in the US military as a means to both expand audiences into traditionally non-literary populations (military, veterans, teens) and to create a vehicle for dialogue.

My Own Book, Winner of the 2011 Innovations in Reading Prize

When Burt Freeman retired as general counsel of a major New York City bank twelve years ago, he put his energy toward creating a charitable venture that would promote literacy for New York City children. The concept behind My Own Book is amazing in its simplicity: Third-grade children from inner-city schools go on a class trip to a bookstore where My Own Book volunteers help the children purchase $50 worth of books to help start and build their own personal libraries. A program that began in 1999 with only one school and one volunteer—Burt—My Own Book has grown to include 73 volunteers who serve 43 schools allowing over 2,500 students to enjoy the opportunity to purchase their very own books. While the kids are thrilled by the trip, there is no one more energized than Burt. As My Own Book’s most active volunteer, Burt revels in his interactions with the children as he helps them find books that are just right for them. Burt’s remarkable vision, generosity, and passion for sharing his own love of learning with children in need have made this program a great success.