How storytelling and technology go hand-in-hand to produce a creative environmentIgor Terziev, Lynsey Hogan & Swara Shukla
Importance of ideas, problem-solving and community engagement in expanding a youth-to-youth publishing company.
Idea to reality: using technology to build storytelling spaces
Igor Terziev, Software Developer (Macedonia)
As an IT professional, one wouldn’t have expected me to end up in a youth publishing company, but here I am – being my most technologically creative.
This is what I love the most about the company – it has ‘ideas’ as its driving force. My opinions matter. As an individual and employee, that sentiment is important to me. Even though I work remotely from Macedonia, our small team has become like family where I can share my ideas.
The most important aspect of my job is to invest in, develop and give shape to ideas. When I got the job, the creative writing platform that I am working on alongside my team was just an idea. Three years later, it has become an online space where stories can be created.
I believe IT is ubiquitous. Story-telling and technology go very well together. People often wonder why and how I got invested in a creative writing project. Both my educational qualifications and work experiences as a developer are surprisingly well-co-ordinated with the project.
I got my initial background in developing while studying in Denmark; it was a culturally diverse space, which makes me relate well to the team-environment here, as well as the global audience that we target. In Denmark, we adopted a project-oriented and problem-solving approach, which has been highly relevant in me bringing the idea of the platform to life; and these are major skill-sets that I continue to employ for its development. I saw the idea of the platform as a ‘solution’ to a problem and that motivated me to help make it a reality.
My previous job was in a Macedonian IT company with a focus in ecommerce. As a field, ecommerce involved developing different modules, integrating different services into one platform and working with foreign markets. These facets fit well into the domain of this company; developing good text-editors and data-processing for the platform involves working on both client-side and server-side technology, the platform itself is aimed towards eventual books that are essentially ‘saleable’, and the concept of a collaborative platform for creative writing is novel.
The company, then, makes for an ideal space for a software developer, presenting challenges to hone skill-sets and evolve as a professional. Recognising that technology itself is creative was a crucial first step in the evolution of this project. My belief in my technological skill-set and my willingness to challenge and develop it helped me both envision and eventually execute the idea of an online creative writing space. I believe no project-idea, however novel, is too far-fetched if you believe in your skills and are willing to challenge them.
(Re)location and (Re)discovery: bringing empathy into the storytelling space
Lynsey Hogan, Youth Worker (Scotland)
How did a counsellor end up working in a youth-to-youth publishing company in the Scottish Highlands?
My passion is working with young people. My story begins as a young skill-seeker in the outskirts of Glasgow, working towards a qualification in administration. My breakthrough moment was a job as an administration assistant in a local charity organisation – specialising in supporting people with alcohol problems. I was given the opportunity to train as a counsellor through a voluntary training scheme. After two-and-a-half years of supervised practice, I gained my accreditation and continued to provide one-to-one counselling for young people and adults. These are the experiences I draw from in my current role as youth worker in a community-based project funded by the company.
My skill-set for the job essentially comprises recognising and empathising with shared emotions and experiences with the young people I interact with. Even though I build on my previous counselling experiences, this project still presents to me a different setting, audience, and role.
The rural setting of the Scottish Highlands is demographically different from the cityscape of Glasgow; as a counsellor, I engaged with already-existing issues and concerns on a one-to-one basis, while my work as Youth Worker requires me to take an educational and preventative approach to a larger community of young people. But counselling skills like openness, genuineness, empathy, and reflections are core and crucial in building communicative and positive relationships; and thereby inherently transferable to my current role, which is also communication-based and requires positive interaction with my audience, which comprises a wide age-range of 11-25 years.
One of the major requirements of my job is to be able to combine my experiences and counselling skills to inspire young people to express themselves and talk about their experiences, challenges and stories. This involves using my aforementioned interpersonal skills to offer non-judgmental support to young people.
Despite some familiar ground, this project is novel in that it requires me to engage with the youth within a storytelling and publishing space. The purpose feels larger; not only do I get to support young people, but also help them get their voices, stories, and ideas heard. Setting up a new project is always a challenge. The company aims to engage a young demographic with untold stories; an agenda that requires a positive, interactive, and open space for the youth to be able to speak out and get heard.
From Delhi to Scotland: Ensuring Accessibility of Online Storytelling Spaces
Swara Shukla, Publishing Developer (India)
When I joined the company, I was freshly transitioning from a Creative Writing and Publishing student to a professional in the publishing industry. My understanding and aspirations as a Creative Writing (and previously Literature) graduate solidify my skill-set for the job.
Indeed, the knowledge-base one builds as a student is important. My qualifications helped me feel more coordinated with the know-how of a creative writing and youth publishing platform; not just in terms of appreciating the agenda, but recognising, on a personal level, the need for it. This is the vantage point I take when I talk about my role within the team.
I work on different facets of developing our online creative writing and manuscript-creation platform, which is aimed at rooting storytelling within an interactive community of peers and mentors; essentially emulating the community-based space that my course provided me. I have seen first-hand how community-building helps in the development of writers, and that makes me an even stronger (and louder) advocate of the platform for the authors I interact with.
My work is reliant on ideation and problem-solving; thinking as a user and writer to gauge the accessibility, functionality, and expediency of different elements and facets of the platform. I feel it slots in well with Igor’s and Lynsey’s vis-à-vis my engagement with an IT-based space and with the youth writing on it. The development of the platform is highly collaborative and mixes both front-facing and behind-the-scenes aspects for me; I work on online content-creation and conceptualising, reviewing, and redeveloping different facets of our website and the platform. To further ensure author-engagement with the platform, I actively interact with young writers and students to aid them in the online manuscript-creation process, peer-feedback, and mentorship, while providing editorial support in developing their stories.
The role also requires me to pull my knowledge of the Indian and Scottish publishing markets developed during my higher studies in Delhi and Scotland to discuss and implement plans for expansion into these spaces. Our platform is aimed at helping us proactively identify young voices with stories to tell. Our regular brainstorming meetings are subsequently aimed at discussing these markets and building communication within the team to strategise and develop plans of action.
My biggest takeaway is towards young readers terrified of stepping into the professional world for the first time like I was; the understanding and knowledge developed during your student-years can make for crucial initial skills to build on. Being able to recognise the novelty, necessity and dearth of an online storytelling platform drives my commitment towards successfully introducing and expanding it into youth-based creative spaces. I feel my engagement – both academic and personal – with diverse youth-driven publishing markets helps me identify problems, and come up with viable solutions and ideas; effectively strengthening my problem-solving skill-set, which is crucial in developing the platform.
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)