SCARBOROUGH — Cameron Jury, 14, may be the youngest published author in Scarborough.
The rising freshman at Scarborough High School recently completed the year-long Young Emerging Authors Fellowship at the Telling Room in Portland, which allowed her to write her own book under the tutelage of professional adult authors. She was part of a publishing process most seasoned authors don’t experience until comfortably in adulthood, if ever.
“The YEA program tries to emulate that publishing (process) in a very real way,” and takes the students from their personal concept of a story, to the printed version of a book and everything in between, said Molly McGrath, director of publications for the Telling Room.
Jury was one of four teenagers selected last fall by the nonprofit organization from a pool of nearly 50 students to participate in the fellowship, which is in its second year.
The application process is demanding, and similar to a real pitch to a publishing company. Students are required to present a mostly fully formed story idea, as well as 10 pages of prose, or five of poetry, depending on the genre.
Jury’s book is titled “Because, Why Not Write?: A Guide to Conquering Writer’s Block,” and is a how-to guide for writing poetry and prose.
In the 100-page book, Jury leads the reader through comical and serious musings, coupled with her own photographs. “This is the guide for any writer lacking ideas or caught in a bad case of writer’s block,” she wrote.
In her prose section, for example, Jury writes short fictional pieces and then dismantles them for the reader, walking through how she got her ideas and recommending ways others can use the same methods.
“One of the greatest ways to get inspiration as a writer is just by living,” Jury wrote in her introduction.
“I love to share these moments of experiencing life with anyone who is willing to read them. Readers can experience any world or any event imaginable, and they get to put themselves in places as if they were the characters. … I know with kids my age it is usual for writing to be an enemy, but you just have to find the right way to go about it,” she wrote.
While the fellowship is beginning its third year this fall, the Telling Room was founded in 2004 by writers Sara Corbett, Mike Paterniti and Susan Conley. It offers programs to students ages 6 to 18 in the form of after-school programs, multiple varieties of week-long summer camps, in-school residencies, field trips, as well as a program for international multilingual high school students called Young Writers and Leaders.
For the more serious student writers, opportunities to get their work published are afforded in an annual anthology, or through the YEA fellowship. Since 2004, the organization has published more than 2,250 student authors and printed more than 85 books.
Encouraging students to foster their individual ideas and having the confidence and creativity to see them through to book form is the crux of the program, McGrath said.
“It’s about finding good writers out there and giving them a stage, but also letting them know they have stories people want to hear,” she said Tuesday.
Jury, who has been participating in Telling Room activities for five years, said “being exposed to writing at a really young age is really helpful.”
“At the very least, you learn more about yourself as a writer,” she said. “The more experience and practice you have makes you better.”
For her, the Telling Room has provided a “privilege” uncommon to most young people: the opportunity to learn and create, while also being “treated and respected as a professional,” she said.
Creating this respectful mentorship and leveling the playing field is something “very deliberately” sought after by staff, volunteers and writers-in-residence, McGrath said. The learning structure purposely blurs the lines between student and teacher as a means to build confidence in students’ ability to feel creatively comfortable.
It’s essential “to meet every (student) writer here as writers ourselves by creating this space where we can write together,” McGrath said.
When she isn’t working toward being a published author, Jury said she likes to do teenage things, like perfect her guitar skills, play volleyball and read Edgar Allen Poe, Emily Dickinson and young adult authors like John Green, author of her favorite book, “Looking for Alaska.”
Jury is also a junior counselor at Broadturn Farm’s farm camp, and admitted that she is “a little nervous” about being in high school.
Of course, when she grows up she wants to be a writer, she said: “A young adult author or journalist would be fun.”
Cameron Jury, 14, of Scarborough, reads aloud from her book, “Because, Why Not Write?: A Guide to Conquering Writer’s Block” in May. Jury was one of four students selected for the year-long Young Emerging Authors fellowship through the Telling Room in Portland. Teens 13-18 may apply for the 2015-2016 fellowship by Tuesday, Sept. 15, at tellingroom.org/programs/YEA.
The book launch for four books produced by students from the Telling Room’s Young Emerging Authors Fellowship will be held Friday, Aug. 21, from 4:30-5:30 p.m. at SPACE Gallery in Portland. Scarborough High School freshman Cameron Jury will be reading aloud from her book, “Because, Why Not Write?: A Guide to Conquering Writers’ Block.”