PROSPECT HEIGHTS — They may not have Marie Calloway's buzz, but the young urban writers of Raw Fiction are carving a space for themselves in the new digital literature.
The just-launched literary site — which debuted with a cheekily titled '3,452nd Issue' in June —bills itself as "an urban independent publication that bridges the gap between high-end literature and mainstream ideas."
But in an age where a vibrant presence on Tumblr can be as relevant to publishing prowess as a good New York Times review, the project served half as a showcase for young writers whose voices are underrepresented in the city's mainstream literary scene, and half as an apprenticeship for those teenage wordsmiths to learn all the other tools of a digital writer's craft — namely programing, web design and publicity.
"The idea was to recruit youth who already self-identified as writers and pair them each with a mentor in a different professional field so they could manage and pull of an online publication of their own," said Raw Fiction founder Zahra Patterson of Prospect Heights, who guided the fledgling literati through their first foray into publishing.
"I was totally hands off — I created a space for them to come together and write."
With support from Fractured Atlas and the Brooklyn Arts Council, the Raw Fiction team has spent the months since September studying Saadat Hasan Monto and Sandra Cisneros, absorbing Adobe Illustrator and mastering the art of online publicity — not to mention the craft of fiction.
"The mentors are all people who I knew," Patterson said. "I hand selected them from different fields."
The contributors themselves were largely high school students by day, unpublished novelists and weavers of urban noir by night.
"In my high school, the writing classes are all nonfiction, nothing creative," said Brooklyn Tech student and Raw Fiction writer Karen Huang, 18, who served as a graphic designer for the site. "The fact I would be able to meet other like-minded writers, get together and share ideas for writing, that’s what hooked me in."