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Orlando literacy group Page 15 releases teen anthology

Young writers answer the question "What do adults do wrong?" in the book Wars Are Dumb

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But more importantly, they're treated with the same professional courtesy the words of any up-and-coming writer would receive from a publishing house. Winter Park artist Brandon Rapert illustrated each piece with deceptively simple drawings that capture the essence of each story in black-and-red line art.

“Brandon is one of those people who just doodles in a sketchbook all day, every day,” Heavener says. “That was the thing we wanted to summon the feel of for the anthology, too. There's sort of a loose and free-flowing feeling to it, but at the same time it has a real urgency and potency to it. I think that reflected well, that that's how one feels in high school.”

Local designer Jen O'Malley, who works on Annalemma and volunteers with Page 15, designed the book – she says her goal was to create a design that gave weight to the words without distracting from them. “I thought Brandon's drawings were really great and gave it an edginess,” she says, “and I wanted to pair them with something sophisticated, so the kids don't look back and think, ‘Oh, I was in this high school book once.' It has a young, edgy kind of tone, but it's also timeless.”

The result is something not unlike an anthology that could have been released by indie publishing house McSweeney's (which has its own national youth literacy organization) – though the stories bear some of the self-consciousness of youth, they are anything but conventional, and the design and illustration makes the product feel whole, weighty and a bit tense. Which is exactly what Heavener and Rivas were going for. Heavener says that when he was young, he remembers looking for “something to latch onto” that was about more than celebrity culture and teen-pop pursuits. “When I was that age, I was really hungering for something,” he says. “I was looking for something like this when I went to Borders. Like, ‘Here's a book from an indie publisher that I've never even heard of.'”

This book, he says, could be more than just a diversion for kids – it could become a point of entry for kids who want to touch base with “forms of culture happening outside of the mainstream.”

The mainstream for kids these days, of course, is the Internet – all the more reason to publish Wars Are Dumb as a bona fide hold-it-in-your-hands, paper-and-ink publication. The written word, Heavener points out, is thousands of years old, something that's been cultivated and refined through the ages. Though its perceived relevance seems to have diminished over time, its permanence and significance has not.

“We could have released this online, and we probably will do something like that too, eventually,” Heavener says. “But I think that there is a permanence to print and a sort of weight when you see it on the page, in a really nice font, laid out really well. It really has an effect on you.”

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