Not too long ago when I was drifting along as a teen writer, I turned to publications like TeenInk and Figment whenever I wanted advice or to submit my thoughts on writing, art and life. Most days I would curl up at my desk with Fried Green Tomatoes or Pretty in Pink blaring in the background, knock out long-winded essays riddled with lofty adjectives, and generally walk the tightrope between ‘brilliant storyteller’ and ‘word-vomiting hack.’ If only I had found Rookie Magazine sooner for some real guidance on what it means to be an up-and-coming writer, artist and feminist (namely, being human). Founded in 2011 by then 15-year-old Tavi Gevinson, Rookie has been going strong with a network of international contributors and daily inspirational content that can teach adults, as well as teens, a few things about self-confidence and great writing. If you’ve never heard of this millennial field guide before, here are eleven reasons why you need to jump over to their website right now.
1. Tavi Gevinson is Your New Best Friend/Big Sister/Role Model
Sure, when I was 15 I wasn’t a total couch potato, but I sure as hell wasn’t launching a revolutionary online magazine and book series for teenagers. Hailing from Chicago, Tavi Gevinson rose to pop culture fame by doing just that when she was only 12 years old with the start of her blog Style Rookie. Dubbed the “Queen of Millennials,” she has since sparked feminist discussions in the teen/college community and showcased a variety of art and writing in Rookie from this generation’s most empowering voices. Gevinson’s public speaking charms also shine in her 2012 talk for TEDxTeen about developing Rookie and “just trying to figure it out;" a comforting message that reminds us humble readers that this illustrious girl has still binge-watched Freaks and Geeks and, when in doubt, turns to Stevie Nicks for guidance.
2. Check out Monthly Issues with One-of-a-Kind Themes
Rookie has a digital tapestry of archived monthly issues dating back to September 2011. Each one is a culmination of original art and writing that orbits around distinctive themes like “Homestretch,” “Cult of Personality” and “Fill in the Blank.” This month’s theme is “Time Travel” and so far Rookie is halfway through posting fascinating news, style, opinions and other writing for readers to follow daily on their calendar of content. If you're interested in a Rookie time capsule, check out their throwback collection of yearbooks featuring the best of Rookie art and writing for every year they've wowed us.
3. Explore Poetry and Fiction from Your Peers
See what strikes other aspiring authors’ imaginations with a collection of short stories, poetry and book excerpts right at your keyboard. Dive into exquisite language and coming-of-age themes from young authors who capture adolescent fears and dreams so well, you’ll swear they ransacked your box of weathered high school journals stowed under your bed like war mementos.
4. Not to Mention, Vivid Art and Comics
Rookie is all about showcasing the way young writers and artists express themselves and that includes visual art. Scouring the webpages of Rookie, you'll find a myriad of original illustrations, photography and comics that provide a unique lens into diverse art styles. Some are bright and clean while others are stylized and quirky, but the content is always strong and even highlights specific color palettes and motifs that tie into each monthly issue.
5. Find Your Next Reading Obsession
Looking for the next big page-turner to grace your nightstand? Rookie’s “In Print” section will make you swoon with gripping suggestions for novels, poetry, zines, graphic novels and more with topics ranging from friendship, romance and, of course, superheroes. Their most recent list features a zine that represents artists of color, a religious identity novel called “The Girl Who Slept with God,” and a wise collection of poetry entitled “Milk and Honey.”
6. Kill Writer’s Block with Creative Writing Prompts
Another great thing about Rookie is not only do they cultivate extraordinary writing, but they also help us defeat creative dry spells with refreshing writing prompts. For each round of submissions for their monthly issues, Rookie provides longing contributors with several ideas for potential stories they’re looking for to better your chances of getting published. Sometimes pitches relate to a specific theme or to something going on in pop culture, but rest assured there are plenty of writing gems to go around.
7. “Dear Diary” Delivers Bite-sized Memoirs Full of Heart and Laughs
This charming segment features snapshots into the everyday millennial’s life that hit you in an eerily familiar way. Usually updated every few days, a slew of contributors tell stories of relationships, pain and that gut-churning feeling of soldiering on that we all know too well. Now and then though the occasional tale of hilarious humiliation, like last month's thong troubles, will break the tension and leave readers feeling much better about their last FML moment.
8. “Live Through This” Will Bring You Strength From Others’ Struggles
As far as I know, there aren’t very many young adult publications with entire sections dedicated to uncensored hardships and sacrifices. That’s what makes Rookie’s “Live Through This” segment so special in how it shapes young readers' perspectives and ability to empathize. From taking care of a sick parent, to beating cancer, to piecing together a broken identity, these stories are written with the same recipe in mind as “Chicken Soup for the Soul” except from adolescent authors who could very well be our classmate, our neighbor or our friend. These are the stories that take the most strength to share and will stay with you long afterwards.
9. “You Asked It” Offers Encouraging Advice
A fun take on the “Dear Abby” trope, Rookie’s “You Asked It” segment is devoted to spreading considerate and thoughtful guidance about subjects like relationships, school and self care. With sub-sections like “Just Wondering,” which tackles specific life questions, and “Club Thrive,” which focuses on health and well-being, this is the place to go when you want solutions to your problems. Hillary Clinton even took a stab at answering Rookie readers’ questions about everything from student debt to Kate McKinnon’s impression of her on SNL.
10. Really Big Celebrities Answer Your Questions in “Ask A Grown Man/Woman”
Speaking of celebrities, Rookie also features a stellar video series called “Ask a Grown Man/Woman." For this segment, Rookie recruits actors, musicians, YouTube stars and other celebrities to answer readers’ questions about love, life and growing up. Julia Louis-Dreyfus is the savvy aunt we never had who trailblazes BFF troubles with ease, while Jimmy Fallon flubs amateur dating advice – a few nuggets of wisdom include “You could get ugly friends” and “Don’t stare at anyone while they’re sleeping.” A for Effort there, Jimmy. Other big names to look out for include: Jon Hamm, Stephen Colbert, Judd Apatow, Terry Crews, Run the Jewels, Thom Yorke and many, many more.
11. They’re Always Looking for Paid Contributors
Yes people, put on your party hats because Rookie contributors are definitely paid! According to their submit page, Rookie is always looking for (deep breath): talented fiction and non-fiction writers, poets, Instagram photography, advice questions, interviews, rants, raves, humor, illustrations, comics, collage sets, videos and original music. Rates vary on a case-by-case basis and Rookie appears to allow all types of content except for photography featuring drugs, alcohol and nudity. I’ve also noticed that while Rookie writing does drop the occasional F-bomb and sometimes crosses over into sexual territory, it’s mostly pretty clean. Overall, this is probably one of the most diverse and flexible submission opportunities you’ll ever find, so get cracking!