Young writers find new space in St. Johns

Two Rivers Bookstore in St. Johns started a weekly reading program where teens from the neighborhood get a chance to read their work aloud. 

The event, called “V is for Vulnerable,” was held on Jan 7. The bookstore’s owner, Christine Longmuir, uses the store as a space to create engaging and expressive work where teens have an opportunity to speak from their minds and hearts. The event title hints at the courage it takes to share personal work in front of an audience. 

The opportunity for young writers to share work outside of an academic setting can be few and far between, so the intention of “V is for Vulnerable” is to create a platform for teens to share their work without any limitations, rules or guidelines.

At the start of the event, there seemed to be only one brave soul willing to share their work in front of all who attended. What the organizers discovered was that engagement and community outreach is difficult when it comes to teenagers. Simply put, they found getting teens to care to be difficult. 

In addition, spreading the word about the event was a challenge as well. The event relied on word-of-mouth marketing, which mostly consisted of high school teachers informing their students about the reading. 

At a quarter past 7 p.m., Longmuir directed the audience to take a seat at the few rows of chairs that had been set up for the event. The emcee, an employee of the bookstore as well as a student at Roosevelt High, began with an introduction of the lone reader. After a brief but affectionate introduction, the reader began to slowly walk up to the makeshift stage, blushing, and carefully opened her journal.

The words “your story matters” were written in cursive across the front. She inhaled deeply then began to speak. The student spoke with surprising confidence and grace for a first-time reader. The first piece she shared was a theatrical short story about a crow related to Shakespeare. The second reading was a journal entry,  which included a personal perspective on some of life’s many absurdities. 

Even though the audience was quite small, every member was drawn into what was shared. 

The event concluded with the reader saying, “This might be kind of dumb, but…” and explained her reasoning behind the selection of her work. Longmuir, the bookstore’s owner, said that nothing about this was dumb and started to clap. The reader, blushing again, got up from her chair and took a graceful bow. 

The crowd at “V is for Vulnerable” was an intimate one, but the overall gesture of the event made it profound. After the event concluded, one thing was made quite clear: When it comes to sharing your work, the amount of people in the audience is irrelevant. What really matters is sharing something that you care about, despite the outcome. V is for Vulnerable proved having the courage to share your story truly is a gift.