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Publish and be damned good!

It's not every day teenagers find themselves published authors. This week, a new anthology by a transition- year class from Scoil Chaitriona in Dublin was published by Fighting Words, the writing centre set up by Roddy Doyle.

Entitled Lost in Transition, the book contains 23 stories, all by students, with an introduction by Booker Prize-winning author Anne Enright, who is amongst the many high-profile volunteers who offer their time and expertise at the centre.

A few weeks ago, the students got to see their work come to fruition as they travelled on a bus (provided by the troubled TD Mick Wallace's Wexford Youths organisation) to a printer in Kildare, to see the book coming off the presses.

And to their delight, Oscar-winner Glen Hansard made a surprise appearance, congratulating them by performing songs on his acoustic guitar.

A fine introduction to the achievement of becoming a published author.

The students were buzzing with excitement when I met them and some had even developed writerly aversions to speaking to journalists. When asked how they feel about seeing their stories in print, Brid said, "The idea is a bit crazy -- we're only teenagers."

A lot of the stories included in the anthology contain a message or moral, such as Steven's. "I wrote a story about stereotypes against teenagers, what people say and it was just to show that we're not all the same."

Alex wrote a story called Cop On. "It's all about a boy going through his life and not really taking advantage of how good he could be, but just coursing through it. He goes on an adventure and comes to his senses in the end." And no, he says, it isn't autobiographical.

One thing all the students agreed upon was that writing a story to publication standard is more difficult than it looks. "It shows you really how hard it is to get a proper published book out there; the amount of drafts and the writing and everything you have to do, it's ridiculous!"

Another unexpected result of working on their stories at Writing Words was an improvement in their overall writing skills at school.

Cameron says: "I found it really interesting because my writing has improved a lot. It helps with school. Our grammar is better."

The centre was set up by Roddy Doyle and former Amnesty Ireland director Sean Love in January 2009 and the pair were last week given a Children's Books of Ireland award in recognition of their contribution to children's writing. I spoke to Doyle, who also travelled to the printers with the children on the day, about why he thinks it is so important to publish these stories.

"I think seeing as they've devoted themselves to the one short story for quite a long time, starting in late September up until May, I think it's somehow fitting that they see it published.

"It's a privilege as well, I think. As a writer myself, I think any time I have anything published I feel very lucky. They're very excited about it and I think that it's a fitting end. There's some extraordinary talent in the group and I've no doubt it's not the first time we'll be seeing their work on paper." While there are no doubt talented writers in the group, does Doyle think the book is good enough to sell?

"It's not just patting them on the back. I believe that this book is as strong as any and the fact that they're so young is actually incidental. I would love to see it read and to see it on a shelf and judged in the way that any other book would be -- that's quite important to me.

"I'd love to get on the bus or DART some day and see somebody reading that book. That's what we're about."

Indo Review