Young Authors’ Book Project

Student authors sign books at release party

We’re proud of everything we publish at 826 Valencia, but we get particularly excited about our annual Young Authors’ Book Project. Each year, we partner with a local high school to produce an anthology of student work. Over the course of a semester, our tutors work one-on-one with the students, helping them polish their drafts to a high shine. A self-selected group of students and volunteers forms the Editorial Board, which edits each essay, comes up with the title, and co-writes an introduction. Each book is also introduced with a foreword by a professional author—past contributors include Khaled Hosseini, Amy Tan, Isabel Allende, Robin Williams, and Mayor Gavin Newsom. The book is released at the end of the school year with a fun and fancy release party. These books are sold at bookstores big and small all over the country. They’re a big source of pride for us, and for the young authors.

Walking Toward the UnknowWe Are Here, Walking Toward the unknown, 2017

Have you ever been misunderstood or judged? What fears are you working to overcome? Can science and technology go too far? If you had the opportunity to go back, how would you fix a past mistake? While these questions were inspired by the themes in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, a book written in the nineteenth century, they are still as thought-provoking and relevant as ever. In this collection, the seniors of Phillip & Sala Burton High in San Francisco set out to answer them in the form of personal narratives, fictional short stories, and letters. From intimate reflections about their own lived experiences, to the development of creative and futuristic worlds, these young authors meditate on our past, present, and future—and the results prove illuminating for all. Book design by Laura Bagnato and cover illustration by Matt Leunig. Purchase.

WalktheEarth_COVER_165x222Walk the Earth in Our Shoes & Plant Some Seeds behind You, 2016

What would we learn if we could interview a whale? Is diversity as advantageous in a social community as it is in a coral reef? How does our environment affect us, and how do we affect our environment? These questions are both age-old and urgent, and in this collection, ninth- and tenth-grade authors from John O’Connell High School in San Francisco set out to answer them. From how their neighborhoods are changing to what it’s like to live in a drought, these young authors share their views and experiences as they investigate the way ecosystems work—and their answers hold insights everyone should read. With a foreword by 826 Valencia board member Joya Banerjee, book design by Tracy Liu, and cover design by Britta Fithian-Zurn. Purchase.

If the World Only KnewIf the World Only Knew: What Sixty-Six Young Authors Believe, 2015

I believe that fear is an illusion. I believe that ADHD is not a disorder, it’s a superpower. I believe that I can graduate. In this book, ninth-graders from Mission High School reflect on their beliefs and where they came fromthe people who imparted them, the times when they were most necessary, and the ways in which the world has tested them. The collection is a testament to the power of personal conviction, and a powerful case for why young peoples’ voices should be heardand believed. With a foreword by Glynn Washington, and design and illustration by Lauren Mulkey

Uncharted Places: An Atlas of Being HereUncharted Places: An Atlas of Being Here, 2014

The 52 personal essays in this collection were penned by seniors at Thurgood Marshall Academic High School, ten years after the debut of the Young Authors’ Book Project at the very same school in 2004. Over the course of a semester the students wrote on the topic of place, searching for their place in the world, ultimately seeking the most elusive of treasures: the unfindable home. Be it metaphorical or explicit, these young men and women write about places that make them feel safe, that make them feel whole. They write about wishing to be seen for who they are, for more than who they are. They write about the pain of not being heard, and the triumph of finding their voice. With a foreword by Rabih Alameddine, book design by Jody Worthington, and illustrations by Kaz Palladino. Purchase.

The Enter Question book coverThe Enter Question: How to Ask and How to Answer, 2013

In 2013, young authors from San Francisco International High School worked with our volunteer tutors for a semester to write, refine, and edit this collection of essays about, in their words, “What it is like to start over in a new place.” SFIHS is a high school specially designed for students who have recently immigrated to the United States, and the essays in The Enter Question cover a wide variety of topics including the challenges of communicating in a new language, the courage it takes to ask for help, and the joy in meeting new people from all over the world. With a foreword by Nyuol Lueth Tong, book design by Jody Worthington, and cover art by Erik MarinovichPurchase.

Arrive, Breathe, and Be Still book coverArrive, Breathe, and Be Still, 2012

In this collection by 35 thirty-five students at Downtown High School in San Francisco, the young writers explore the themes of resistance and resilience through their original monologues and plays. After a semester of working intensely with actors at American Conservatory Theater and writing tutors from 826 Valencia, the students produced this powerful look into the pressures surrounding young people, and the strength it takes to keep going. Perfect for reading or performing, these pieces are a refreshing tool for using theater in the classroom or outside of it. With a foreword by Octavio Solis and book design by Jody WorthingtonPurchase.

Beyond Stolen Flames book coverBeyond Stolen Flames, Forbidden Fruit, and Telephone Booths, 2011

In this collection of essays and short stories written by 53 juniors and seniors at June Jordan School for Equity, young writers explore the role of myth in our world today. Students write pieces of fiction and nonfiction, retelling old myths, creating new ones, celebrating everyday heroes, and recognizing the stories that their families have told over and over. The result is a collection with a powerful message about the stories that have shaped students’ perspectives and the world they know. With a foreword by Khaled Hosseini, book design by Jody Worthington, and illustrations by Matt Leunig. Purchase.

We the Dreamers book coverWe the Dreamers: Young Authors Explore the American Dream, 2010

In this collection of essays by 50 juniors at John O’Connell High School, young writers reflect on what the American Dream means to them. The students recount stories about family, home, immigration, hardship, and the hopes of their generation as well as those of the generation that raised them. The result is a firsthand account of these essayists’ often complicated relationship with our national ethos that is insightful, impassioned, surprising, and of utmost importance to our understanding of what the American Dream means for their generation. With a foreword by Daniel Alarcón and book design and cover illustration by Jody Worthington. Purchase.

Show of Hands book coverShow of Hands: Young Authors Reflect on the Golden Rule, 2009
This collection of stories and essays, written by 54 juniors and seniors at Mission High School in San Francisco, amplifies the voices of students as they reflect on one of humanity’s most revered guides for moral behavior: the Golden Rule, which tells us that we should act toward others as we would want them to act toward us. Whether speaking about global issues, street violence, or the way to behave among friends and family, the voices of these young essayists are thoughtful, brilliant, impassioned, surprising, and, most of all, urgent. Purchase.

Seeing Through the Fog book coverSeeing Through the Fog: A Gateway to San Francisco, 2008

A collection of stories and essays written by 72 seniors at Gateway High School to guide locals, tourists, and armchair travelers alike to new places and new ways of seeing through the San Francisco fog. This exceptional collection of writing is about the smell of a burrito shop in the Mission. It’s about how to tackle Macy’s as a tourist. It is about running away from bison in Golden Gate Park. It’s about bartering for lunch at the farmers’ market and about buying fashion accessories for $2.99. It’s about the local characters, slang, a couple ghosts, and some secret places. Purchase.

Exactly children's stories book coverExactly: 10 Beavers, 9 Fairies, 8 Dreams, 7 Knights, 6 Princesses, 5 Dogs, 4 Otters, 3 Old Men, 2 Robots, 1 Traveling Shoe & Everything Else It Takes to Make a Great Children’s Storybook (More or Less) , 2007

The 56 children’s tales in this anthology were written by students at Raoul Wallenberg Traditional High School in San Francisco. Each author crafted an original story or fable designed to provide entertainment and life lessons to the next generation. The stories have been vividly illustrated by professional artists — in full color — and the result is a witty and wonderfully written book so eye-catching and endearing it will delight exactly everyone, no matter their age. Purchase.

Home Wasn't Built in a Day book coverHome Wasn’t Built In A Day: Constructing the Stories of Our Families, 2006

“We each have a way we’d like to tell a story, and a way we’d like to remember. As generations go by, family stories change. This project gave us an opportunity to be a part of this process. Not only does the past shape the present, but retelling a story recreates a past.” —from the introduction by the student editorial board. 

Written by juniors and seniors at the Galileo Academy of Science and Technology, this collection of touching and insightful stories explores the myths and realities of what makes a family a family. Home Wasn’t Built in a Day includes a foreword by Robin Williams. Purchase.

I Might Get SomewhereI Might Get Somewhere: Oral Histories of Immigration and Migration, 2005

“Voice—that’s what I look for first in a story. A strong voice is half the story. It is the essence of self and soul, mind and what matters. The voice determines what kinds of stories will be told. Often the voice has a secret past, what has never been told, but usually because no one has asked.” —Amy Tan

This compelling collection of personal stories by Balboa High School’s class of 2007 reflects on the problems and pleasures of life in new surroundings. It includes a foreword by author Amy Tan. Out of print.

Waiting to Be HeardWaiting to Be Heard: Youth Speak Out About Inheriting a Violent World, 2004

“Against a backdrop of war and terrorism, which seems to be the mark of our time, hearing what our kids have to say about violence breaks your heart. Their voices are loud and clear. Pay attention, for they have so much to say!” —Isabel Allende

This anthology by students at Thurgood Marshall Academic High School offers passionate, lucid statements about personal, local, and global issues — the way high school students would have you hear them. It includes a foreword by Isabel Allende. Out of print.

Talking BackTalking Back: What Students Know About Teaching, 2003

Talking Back delivers the voices of the class of 2004 from Leadership High School. This book touches an unexplored realm from the minds of inner-city teens. In reading this book, you will gain insight into youth perspectives on education. You will understand the relationships students want with their teachers, how students view classroom life, and how the world affects students. Over the course of two intensive days, a score of tutors from 826 Valencia travelled to Leadership High to help the students not only polish and edit their essays, but also to give these students skills that will support them with all their writing. The experience was a success from all sides, and the annual Young Author Book Project was born. This volume is out of print.