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Interview with Aybala Turkarslan

Introduce yourself! 

Hi there! I’m Aybala Turkarslan, a high school junior and writer from Seattle. I recently founded publishYOUth, an online service connecting youth writers to competition and publication opportunities that you can find at publishYOUth.com! In my free time I love to write (crazy, right?), spend time with family and friends, and watch Turkish comedies (that somehow always end with a dramatic twist).

What is publishYOUth and how did it begin? 

The idea behind publishYOUth began to arise when I entered into my first writing competition. This was the INS Essay Contest, and I heard about it from a teacher at my school. Researching different topics and borrowing books from my local library, I worked to draft my essay and submit it to the competition. I later learned that I had gotten into the contest’s Top 15, and I was so excited and grateful to have heard about this opportunity from my teacher.

 

In the summer of 2020 I looked back on this experience, and I started to realize how difficult it was to find such opportunities. Many busy students have to search through countless lists of writing opportunities to try and find those that are for their age group, reliable, affordable, and not already expired—let alone actually interesting to them. Based on this desire to make writing opportunities more accessible and easily organized, I set out to create publishYOUth with guidance from The Big Sisters Project, a wonderful entrepreneurship program for young women! Since my service’s launch in August we’ve added over 100 opportunities to the publishYOUth website and reached over 2,000 followers internationally on Instagram, and it’s been amazing to hear the stories of youth that have benefited from the platform!

You’re a writer yourself, with your work recognized by the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, the Ringling College of Art & Design, and more. What sort of things do you write? How did you get into writing?

I vividly remember how I first got into writing. I had an amazing elementary school teacher called Professor Watermelon (I know, literally the best name ever) who hosted an after school creative writing club. I joined the club as a little first grader, and I remember that we would always start the meetings with hot chocolate and an exciting writing prompt. From that club I wrote stories about skating on rainbows and entering haunted houses, and at the end of the year our teacher held a contest where we won small prizes for our work. I’ve always been so grateful to have been introduced to creative writing in that way, and I feel as though I’ve always looked back at that experience to ground myself in my passion for the craft.

 

As for my writing currently, I’d say that there’s a large variety to the things that I write about. I recently got into poetry, but I mainly tend to write a lot of fiction (such as short stories and flash fiction) as well as critical or personal essays. One of my favorite pieces that got chosen by the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards was a critical essay exploring the impacts of Orientalism in film and literature on those from Asia, specifically the Middle East. Another essay that I wrote for the INS Essay Contest was centered around the use of neuromarketing in politics, and I feel really fortunate for the platform that writing presents in terms of spreading awareness for issues you care about and facilitating change.

What inspires you? Do you have any role models?

I think I’m inspired by a lot of the people before me who paved the way for greater representation and opportunity, whether that be politicians, women entrepreneurs, or my family. I would say that my specific role models would be my parents and grandparents for their determination and compassion, and of course my all-time favorite Zendaya Coleman.

What have you learned through creating publishYOUth?

One of the biggest things I’ve learned is the importance of passion. Life can get extremely busy for a variety of different reasons, and I feel as though a lack of passion for something you’ve created would make continuing extremely hard. I feel very fortunate that I was able to start publishYOUth as someone who is a young writer myself, as even during difficult times I’ve still had that same passion for the service as when I first started it in August.

You’re currently a junior in high school in the U.S. (which is a notoriously stressful time) — How do you take care of yourself and deal with stress? What does self care mean to you?

This is such a good question! I feel as though I could go on for so long about this, but I think my best tips would be to take time for yourself, recognize your self-worth, and always remember the importance of overall health. I personally take care of myself by talking with friends and family, watching new TV shows and YouTube videos, listening to music, and by dancing around my room. I’d also recommend journaling in regard to your worries or overall day, especially during stressful times.

 

Another important (but difficult) part of self-care is recognizing your worth and being able to separate that from material entities such as school, work, or accomplishments. Though it isn’t always easy, I think it’s crucial to get to know who you are and what you like to do, as that’ll help with holding confidence in yourself that is not tied to external objects or validation. Self-care to me means prioritizing yourself and taking care of your physical, mental, and emotional health, and a large part of that is recognizing how you are more than worthy of such love and care. My biggest piece of advice would be to do what makes you happy, to always focus on the bigger picture of your life passions, and to surround yourself with people who help you do the same.

Here are some rapid-fire questions: 

Your go-to coffee shop order? 

Hot chocolate and a vanilla scone!

Favorite season? 

Summer!

Any good films/TV shows you’re watching right now? 

Sen Çal Kapımı (You Knock on My Door) and Hunter x Hunter! 

Ultimate comfort food?

Strawberry Pop-tarts! They’re too good.

What has been the highlight of your day today? 

Talking with my extended family over the phone!

What is upcoming for you and your work? 

New publication and competition opportunities are being added to publishYOUth, and we’re excited to hopefully host a contest of our own soon! I can’t say too much about it, but there’s hopefully going to be some great things coming this summer, so follow our social media to stay tuned!

 


Aybala bottom.png

Aybala Turkarslan is a high school junior from Seattle, Washington. She recently founded publishYOUth—an international online service connecting youth writers to publication and competition opportunities—after noticing the difficulty for youth writers in finding publishing opportunities in an applicable, affordable, and organized manner. As a young writer herself, Aybala enjoys poetry, fiction, and essay writing. Her work has been recognized by the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, the Ringling College of Art & Design, and the INS Essay Contest Top 15 for her essay on neuromarketing in politics. Outside of writing she is passionate about social change and entrepreneurship, as well as sunshine and Turkish dramedies.

 

Website: publishyouth.com 

 

Instagram: @publishyouth

 

LinkedIn: @publishyouth

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