This article was originally published on Acts of Revision, and has been republished with permission of Cindy Layton, a local writer and lover of words who attended a WriteBoston friend-raiser hosted by a generous donor this November. Cindy reflects on reading Teens in Print for the first time — and how fundamental writing is to success. 

File this under “What I can learn when I’m not expecting to learn something.” Or better “Things I’m embarrassed to admit I didn’t know.”

WriteBoston is an organization whose mission is to guide, celebrate and amplify the voices of urban youth in Massachusetts. With this objective in mind, Sarah Poulter, Executive Director, and Carla Gualdron, Director of the Teens in Print (TiP) program, lead a group of teens in the writing, designing and production of Teens in Print, a quarterly publication covering news, entertainment and food relevant to the Boston metropolitan area. The Boston Globe, in association with the nonprofit, prints and distributes the final product.

While the organization encourages the pursuit of journalism, their more specific aim is to develop writing skills through the teaching of journalism, using a coaching model, and by observing the real-world environment. TIP conducts meetings at the offices of the Boston Business Journal (BBJ), surrounded by the BBJ staff during business hours, giving participants the opportunity to experience the newsroom first-hand.

I attended an informal fundraising event for WriteBoston, where Gualdron, Director of TiP, spoke about the students she coaches, remarking how motivated and involved her group is. They juggle afterschool activities nearly every day, take leadership positions in many of them, some hold down part-time jobs and then tackle homework at night.

So what? Another local nonprofit, doing good in the community. It can be tough to pay attention sometimes.

Except, skimming the titles of the September issue revealed a surprising breadth of subjects, some of which I didn’t expect to see in stories written by teens including: “DOT Crime on the Rise” or “Boston or Bloodston? Roxbury Crime Surges in Summer” and “Students of Color: Your Survival Guide to Private School.” Other articles dealt with the METCO program, skin bleaching among people of color, aggression among video game players, alongside other, more mainstream articles, such as “Secret Boston Sights” and “3 Cheap Eats in Boston.”

Aside from the obvious surprise at the depth of the subject matter, there were take-aways from my experience learning about WriteBoston that apply to me as a writer and a community member.

As a writer of fiction for Young Adults, reading Teens in Print was a baptism into the world of all things teen 2017. What teens choose to write about shows me where my audience is, emotionally and intellectually. No reader of Teens in Print would complain that these aspiring journalists have their heads buried in a screen, are ignorant about the issues of the day, or lack motivation to engage with the world. The writing is proof otherwise.

If I ever worried that teens might balk at the dark tendencies in my YA writing, what I am embarrassed to admit I did not know is this: they are already miles ahead of me when it comes to awareness.

Also, I was reminded (or re-learned) how fundamental writing is to success. It is, arguably, the most essential skill necessary for advancement in nearly any endeavor. Good writers have the power to share information and communicate ideas that create the potential to influence people and shape thought. If information is indeed power, then writing is the tool necessary to wield that power.

WriteBoston knows all of this, Teens in Print knows it too. And now, embarrassment aside, I know it and I will be a better, more informed writer, going forward.


Cindy Layton’s first overt act in the transition from a career in accounting to creative writing was the purchase of Strunk & White’s The Elements of Style. Small and unassuming, the book resided handily on the shelf above her desk and guided her next steps: graduate level courses in writing, then studying at GrubStreet in Boston, until finally completing a draft of Indigo Child (her young adult novel). While she follows the ever-hopeful path to publication, she has started the sequel to Indigo Child, continuing her character’s journey in The Ascendant Girl.
Cindy and her husband live in their cozy empty nest, south of Boston.