High School Submitter Julia Vu

High School Submitter Julia Vu

Hello everyone! While Sheepshead Review gets ready to launch one of the most exciting issues yet, I’d like to shine a spotlight on one of the best things about Sheepshead Review. Besides being edited and created by undergraduates at the UW-Green Bay, our journal accepts high school submissions from all over the country. By taking submissions from high school students, Sheepshead Review becomes a diverse journal full of young voices who have so much to say about the world around them, and is a journal that offers new perspectives from new lenses. Combining high school pieces in all four genres offered in our issues, Sheepshead Review creates a journal that welcomes, encourages, and showcases young, raw, talent.

In the Fall 2020 issue, high schooler Julia Vu captured the attention of the Poetry genre staff with her eloquently crafted poems that made her seem beyond her years. As a way to celebrate her work, and as a way to give you all a taste of the journal’s diverse talent that is delivered with every issue published, Jou Lee Yang (who is the Outreach Coordinator and Assistant Managing Editor for Sheepshead Review) and I decided to reach out to Julia to see where, and what, she is doing now. Upon responding to us, Julia has not only given us an amazing update that shows how much she has grown as a writer but has given us the green light to include four amazing poems from her. Below you will find her incredible responses that Jou Lee had sent out, as well as the four poems that she had given to us to share with you all. Without further ado, I would like to introduce you all to Julia Vu.

Julia Vu

What are you doing now? Are you still writing?

As a high school junior in the IB Diploma Program, I’ve been balancing writing, a few side projects, school work, and the occasional dash of “me time”. I’m still writing and allowing my creative voice to grow and flourish as I age. This month, I am participating in Escapril, an event hosted by poet Savannah Brown where participants write a poem every day of April based on a daily theme in celebration of National Poetry Month. Earlier this year, I founded Café Au Lait Magazine, a small literary magazine, and have been working closely with several of my friends to expand the team and sort through submissions. I’ve also been very active in performative poetry and will be performing as one of the youth poets for the 2021 Oakland Write Your Roots Proclamation alongside Mayor of Oakland Libby Schaaf and 2020 Oakland Youth Poet Laureate Greer Nakadegawa-Lee this Friday. I’m working as a Chapter 510 Intern and will be hosting the Chapter 510 x Youth Speaks Bay Area Under 21 Open Mic with Zouhair Mussa, the 2019 Oakland Youth Poet Laureate, the following Friday.

What elements influence your work? What inspires you?

I believe that emerging poets of this generation have the power to carve the future through the art of translating abstract fragmented thoughts into words. Sharing my writing and submitting it to journals has been quite a journey for me. I am a child derived from a long history of depression and mental illness, so it was only natural that I inherited the frustrations brought on by both my parents. From 7th to 10th grade, I had experienced intense depression and was bouncing between a cycle of eating disorders. Under the pressure of being in a ridiculously competitive education program, my mental health only deteriorated with time. Poetry changed that. Not immediately, of course — the journey to recovery is never a straight line — but that was when my mental health stopped declining. Poetry provided me an outlet for my frustration in a world that actively rejects mental illness. I could draw awareness to the repression my community has been subjected to in modern society. We are given honor rolls for outstanding academic performance, but where’s the award for choosing to stay Alive? Through my writing, I hope to empower and normalize the discussion of self-acceptance. I hope to redefine the societal confines that have been placed upon the issue of mental health and I hope to break the stigma surrounding mental illness. My writing is a desperate cry to poets and society as a whole because it’s about time that we discuss our mental wellness. Caring for oneself and making oneself a priority should not be selfish nor should it be a privilege.

Has your writing evolved since the pieces you submitted to Sheepshead Review? If it has, how?

Through attending several Youth Speaks After School Workshops and working closely with poets like Jada Imani and EJ Walls, I found that my more recent writing has adopted a stronger and more advocacy-rooted tone. Connecting with other people of color and queer youth has opened my eyes to the power behind words, art, and particularly poetry in raising awareness for disenfranchised communities and the discrimination they face.

How did you hear about Sheepshead Review originally? What made you want to submit to us?

A friend of mine attending University of Wisconsin-Green Bay had heard of the Sheepshead Review and told me about the publication, as he knew about my love for poetry. He encouraged me to submit and, after looking at the website, my interest in the Sheepshead Review rocketed and I decided to submit.

What do you love about writing?

Writing gives me a voice to reach others who may have had similar experiences. It allows me to make connections with other young creatives internationally and make an impact on their lives. Writing provides me with a way to temporarily escape from reality, delve deep into an alternate universe, and bring a world that exists only in my imagination to life.

What inspired you to start writing? Can you describe your writing process to us?

My ninth-grade English teacher, Mr. S., was and is one of the most influential people in my life. He supported me throughout the fluctuations of my mental health and encouraged me to explore writing as a cathartic coping mechanism. It is through his mentorship that I have the confidence to submit and share these letters that I never meant to send. My writing process usually starts with a nice warm cup of green tea at the crack of dawn. I’m a morning person and like to be awake by 4-5 AM, which is usually when I do the brunt of my creative writing. I would look through my folders of saved poems, little aesthetic phrases, Pinterest pictures, etc. for inspiration and see where my pen takes me!

Julia Vu’s Poetry:

“hyphenated” – Trigger Warning: blood, violence, war

“gemes” – Trigger Warning: implications of r*pe, sexual harassment, fetishization of Asian women, hate crimes, profanity, cannibalism (trigger warning featured at the beginning of the poem as well)

“tuko pamoja” – no Trigger Warnings established

“texts that didn’t send in time” – no Trigger Warnings established

To check out Julia’s poetry in the Fall 2020 issue, click the link to find the online version of the issue on ISSUU: https://issuu.com/officialsheepsheadreview/docs/5_fin_issuu

Want to see more of our high school pieces? Be sure to join our virtual launch party on May 3rd, 2021 from 1-2 p.m. CST via Zoom to be the first to witness new pieces from various of high school submitters across the United States! RSVP with this link: https://uwgreenbay.ca1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_41PfZDiWqhxVIjk

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