Photo of three Fort Vancouver High School students whose writing was published in a literary journal

Pictured from left: Katie Campbell, Skye Edwards and Bailey Willis, published authors

Nonfiction tackles weighty issues

Though the ultimate goal may be to reach others, writing is first an act of self-examination. It’s an inventory of one’s own values and beliefs, as Katie Campbell, Bailey Willis and Skye Edwards have learned. They’ve also learned how to become accomplished writers. Recently, these three students at the Fort Vancouver High School Center for International Studies had pieces published in online literary journal VoiceCatcher.

Each student’s nonfiction tackles weighty issues. Their writing appraises not only what their topics mean through the lens of identity, but also the social ramifications of their themes.

Katie Campbell’s “Prude” addresses objectification and social expectations. “I just needed to connect with these other girls that might be having that same problem and just make sure that they know that they’re loved and that they have other supports and that they’re strong, independent young women,” she said.

By looking at body perceptions learned from parents in “Being Fat But Not Fat Fat,” Bailey Willis hopes to dismantle barriers to honest conversations. “I think body image should be talked about more,” she said.

“It starts with our young people,” said Skye Edwards, author of “The Other F-Word,” about social change. “Empowering people to say what they believe in and fight for it. I’m going to be one of those super-awesome feminists that change the world.”

Each essay originated from assignments for teacher Ben Jatos’ English class and stories penned for Orpheus, Jatos’ annual event at Fort that brings together professional and student writers. The students credit Jatos, who also is a published writer, with nurturing their literary voices.

They also had opportunities to edit and revise their essays with the guidance of published authors LeeAnn McLennan and Kate Ristau, who edits VoiceCatcher’s “Young Voices” section.

“Each of their voices is so unique and powerful, and reading their words alongside older authors added a depth and complexity to the journal,” said Ristau. Their words are authentic, raw and wonderfully crafted. As an editor, I cannot imagine a better experience, both workshopping their work and helping them craft their final product.”

That experience, and seeing their names in print, is something these young writers say is now forged into their memories.

“I never thought that we would get this far,” said Campbell. “It’s really cool.”