LAEWG Member Releases a New Anthology

Advice to Ninth Graders book coverWhile our newsletter is usually about writing tips, the publishing industry, or book marketing and promotion, this time we’re focusing on one of our members: Amy Friedman.

Amy, a well-known author and teacher, is the editor of a fascinating book that was just published: Advice to 9th Graders: Stories, Poetry, Art & Other Wisdom (February 2024, Out of the Woods Press). It is a PATHfinder Club and POPS the Club anthology that deserves to have a light shone on it. It has received some incredible press, ranging from Kirkus Reviews and national radio shows to articles in newspapers around the country. One of the best articles written about it was penned by Amy herself. So, I’m going to use Amy’s words (with her permission, of course), excerpted from a piece she wrote for Women Writers, Women’s Books:

Most adults seldom actually listen to teenagers — even those of us who claim we do. Sometimes we complain that we can’t listen over their music, or we dismiss them because we’re made uneasy by their language, their moods, or attitudes.

And most teenagers, while pretending to listen to us adults — whether parents or teachers, neighbors, or casual strangers — often find it hard to pay attention to what we think it’s vital they hear.

We knew all that eleven years ago when we first launched POPS (Pain of the Prison System), a club-style, school-based nonprofit to support teens impacted by incarceration, detention, or deportation. And so, we decided that in our club meetings, we were going to try to flip the script.

In other words, we decided we were going to shut up and listen to the teens.

Once we began to listen, what we heard was so meaningful, wise, and unexpected, we decided others needed to listen too. In order to amplify these young peoples’ voices and visions we began to publish their work. Beginning in 2014, we published an annual book collection of their poetry, essays, stories, collages, paintings, drawings, and photography. From the start, the books earned praise from adults, and other young people gobbled them up. It was clear to us that they recognized that in the pages of these books was the wisdom they needed and wanted to hear.

In early 2023, POPS the Club and its affiliate program, The PATHfinder Club, decided to merge, and for our first co-publication, we chose to focus on prompts that had, year after year, inspired some brilliantly simple, sharply astute, straight-from-the-heart writing and artwork. The prompts were these: What advice would you give to incoming 9th graders? What advice do you wish someone had given you as you were entering high school?

The teens and preteens offered stories of friendship, tales of teachers, wise words about homework, home life, their hearts and souls, and even transportation. Their words about love and worry and how to learn to be proud of yourself poured in.

What began as a book we had imagined would be thinner than previous volumes — both in size and scope — grew and expanded. As the writers offered guidance for others, they began to offer what we came to see was guidance for themselves, and for all of us. They wrote about dreams — big and small. Even we, decades beyond high school, began to see ways that Advice for 9th Graders was offering us new ways to see: “is my body meant for love or for labor?” wrote Jimmie Harmon, “is it a weapon or is it a flower?”

It was teaching us new questions to ask ourselves, as Avel’s poem offered:

Who am I?
A person who is falling apart or
One who helps others love their hearts?
Maybe I am just someone
At war with her thoughts.

The writers and artists featured in this volume rewarded us with work much more profound, funny, sad, and sincere than we had imagined — a gift from young people with so much to offer the world.

I highly recommend the book for young and older adults alike. When you read it, you’ll understand why.

Copyright © 2024 by Sharon Goldinger. If you would like to reprint this article, please contact the author directly at for permission.

Sharon Goldinger
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