Inklette interviewed a dear friend, Sprout Magazine, that turns one next month.
Sprout envisions “a space where young minds can share their thoughts and opinions about society through creative expression.” Sprout is a nonprofit, online literary journal for teens, by teens and publishes “creative media that demonstrates awareness of the world and social commentary, sharing art in its purest, rawest form.”
Here is Victoria Hou, the Editor-in-Chief of Sprout, interviewed by our Prose Editor, John S. Osler III.
John: How would you describe Sprout to someone who’s never heard of it?
Victoria: I would describe Sprout as a curation of creative, developed political thoughts from young artists. Sprout’s mission is to promote awareness through art, so that’s pretty much who we are at the core.
John: What inspired you to create a magazine like that?
Victoria: I’ve always been an artist, but I didn’t become politically active or aware until I started getting on social media. When social movements such as #blacklivesmatter and intersectional feminism became increasingly more relevant on social media, I found myself and my peers becoming more and more educated about political and social issues. So, Sprout’s a happy marriage between the two things I find most important in life – self-expression and awareness.
John: And do you think Sprout has done that so far, reflecting social issues through art?
Victoria: I think so. As with all art, many of the pieces featured on Sprout are personal, but all of them align with a greater social issue. For example, we’ve featured many pieces on bullying and gender inequality. Both of these topics are ones that affect the individual, but are issues that connect with our society as a whole.
So, Sprout’s a happy marriage between the two things I find most important in life – self-expression and awareness.
John: Correct me if I’m wrong, but I remember hearing that, up until a few months ago, you and Sophie Grovert were the only editors for Sprout. What was that like, editing and publishing an entire literary magazine with a staff of only two?
Victoria: To be honest, it was pretty tough at the beginning. I founded it on my own and Sophie started helping me out in the months following Sprout’s birth. But eventually the word got out – Sophie helped me out a lot on that front, she’s got a lot of writer friends that I didn’t have – and Sprout started expanding.
John: It certainly has. How has Sprout changed since taking on seven new staff members?
Victoria: Well, our productivity has certainly increased. Our focus has shifted from developing internally to growing outward. But we’ve stayed true to the feelings that led us to create Sprout in the first place – a motivation to offer something meaningful to the world and an enthusiasm for honest, raw work.
John: With a larger staff, do you have any new projects in the works?
Victoria: We want to create an issue featuring selected works from our magazine! Currently, Sprout features a piece weekly on our website, but we’re looking to put out a collection for our anniversary in April.
But we’ve stayed true to the feelings that led us to create Sprout in the first place – a motivation to offer something meaningful to the world and an enthusiasm for honest, raw work.
John: Interesting. Are there any topics you wish more people submitted pieces about?
Victoria: With so many political topics and social issues in the world, it would be impossible to prioritize a few over others. That being said, however, I think issues such as gun control, immigration, and Islamaphobia could be really interesting if expressed creatively.
John: What would you say your personal favorite piece so far has been?
Victoria: I can’t pick a definite favorite, but recently we featured a piece titled “White on White” by Lucas Bigelow that expresses frustration at internalized racism. It’s a wonderful read and basically captures Sprout’s essence of political realization and clear, elevated thought.
John: Would you say Sprout has a certain ideology, or that you publish anything, so long as it’s political in nature and well written? Would you, for example, publish a thoughtful piece that argues against legalizing same sex marriage?
Victoria: Sprout itself doesn’t have an ideology. Although staff members may have certain opinions on political issues, Sprout will publish thoughtful political pieces so long as they aren’t hateful or threatening in nature.
At the end of our mission statement, it states “We encourage all opinions and points of view, but that being said – Sprout does not reflect any biases present in the work we publish. We are simply a plot of land for seeds to grow. Plant yourself here and watch yourself prosper.”
And we like to stick to that whenever possible, regardless of our personal views or opinions.
John: Huh, and have you run into any problems with that thus far, staff members conflicting over political views or readers complaining about pieces they didn’t agree with?
Victoria: No, we haven’t. We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.
In all seriousness, anything that cultivates and encourages political opinion is a breeding ground for controversy. I think that if readers disagree with pieces featured on Sprout, we’re doing our job in promoting differing views on issues that matter. And by all means, if you disagree with something on Sprout, we’re glad to consider your opinion for publication as well!
When talking politics, its important to include the voices of everyone. Sprout will always have room to grow in this respect, because there’s always someone out there who’s voice isn’t heard.
John: So you’d be willing to publish counter opinions to published pieces?
Victoria: Yes, if we ever received any that followed our mission statement and submission rules. Sprout believes that any mature political conversation is a good political conversation, and we’d be happy to feature any well-crafted opinion piece, whether it counters a previous piece on Sprout or not.
John: So in your submission rules, I see that you only accept submissions from writers and artists ages thirteen to twenty two. What do you think publishing only pieces by young writers adds to Sprout?
Victoria: Sprout acts as a medium for young people to nurture their thoughts. It is, by extension, is a learning environment. You can flesh out different avenues with Sprout. Because we only publish young artists, we’re able to build this safe space for young artists to express themselves and learn at the same time. A platform to explore opinions is especially important in a time of life where it seems almost impossible to have your voice heard. And that’s just not the teenage angst in me speaking either.
John: Okay, last question: besides publishing an anthology, how do you see Sprout growing in the months and years to come?
Victoria: Well, I hope to see an inclusion of more political issues from around the world. We have two staff members who are from countries other than the U.S and it would be wonderful to see more international submissions regarding issues that aren’t necessarily Western in nature. When talking politics, its important to include the voices of everyone. Sprout will always have room to grow in this respect, because there’s always someone out there whose voice isn’t heard.
John: Well said. Thanks so much for agreeing to the interview, it was a pleasure to speak with you!
Victoria: Thank you so much for the opportunity! The pleasure was mine!
Blog Credits: John S. Osler III (Prose Editor)
VICTORIA HOU is a sixteen year old poet and artist. Along with being the Editor-in-Chief of Sprout, she is also the executive editor of her school’s print literary magazine, The Highland Piper. Her poetry was awarded Silver Key for Scholastic Art & Writing, West Region in 2014. She is also a two-time gold medalist and one-time silver medalist in Foundation for Chinese Performing Arts’ National Brush Painting & Calligraphy competition. Passionate about politics and law, Victoria spends her free time reading up on current events.
JOHN S. OSLER III is currently a senior at Edina High School, where he writes for both the school’s underground, satirical newspaper, The Southern View, and their legitimate newspaper, Zephyrus. He has attended the Iowa Young Writers’ Studio. He is currently a Prose Editor for Inklette, where his story, ‘Farrand Pride’ was published. Another story of his, ‘Howard Houghton,’ was published in Phosphene Literary Journal. Recently, his short story, ‘Bobby’s Song’ was published in the first issue of Moledro Magazine.