Parents and educators spend a lot of time, and spill a lot of ink, debating how to get teenagers interested in reading. Anyone who stops to think about the phenomenal success of Stephenie Meyers’ Twilight series will realize this is a somewhat odd debate to be having: teenagers are already reading (although perhaps not the kind of books that parents and educators might prefer).
Jacob Lewis, a former managing editor at The New Yorker, and Dana Goodyear, a staff writer at the magazine, seem to understand this. Lewis and Goodyear have teamed up to create Figment.com, an online community where young readers and writers can connect and submit their own fiction, poetry, even cell-phone novels.
The idea for Figment emerged from a very 21st-century invention, the cellphone novel, which arrived in the United States around 2008. That December, Ms. Goodyear wrote a 6,000-word article for The New Yorker about young Japanese women who had been busy composing fiction on their mobile phones. In the article she declared it the first literary genre to emerge from the cellular age.
Figment is an attempt to import that idea to the United States and expand on it. Mr. Lewis, who was out of a job after Portfolio, the Condé Nast magazine, was shuttered last year, teamed up with Ms. Goodyear, and the two worked with schools, libraries, and literary organizations across the country to recruit several hundred teenagers who were willing to participate in a prototype, which went online in a test version in June.
The Beta version of the site is up now. It features new writing from Blake Nelson, author of the acclaimed YA novel Girl, as well as contests, reviews, and user-generated content.