For weeks, Ridgefield resident Mia Scarpati couldn’t bring herself to read the transcript of Donald Trump’s now-infamous Hollywood Access tape. Even watching a Saturday Night Live sketch after she finally worked up the stomach to read his comments — a series of lewd, sexually aggressive statements about women which Trump chalked up to being just “locker room talk” — proved difficult.

The 14-year-old student, who’s aspiring to become a journalist, said the transcript’s final line filled her with embarrassment for her country’s place in the world.

But it served a purpose: Trump’s words motivated Scarpati to sit down and write.

What she produced was an essay that would lead to her acceptance at Choate Rosemary Hall in Wallingford, where she started as a freshman last fall.

The experience taught her what a powerful outlet writing could be when wielded correctly. It was a revelation she wanted to share with her peers.

That’s why Scarpati is planning to launch Pen and Ink, an online literary magazine that will give high school students a space to express themselves.

If studying for exams weren’t enough, the young editor in chief hopes to publish the first Pen and Ink magazine online by June 12 — right around the end of her school year.

Four sections

Scarpati envisions the monthly magazine being entirely staffed and run by high school-aged students. She plans for Pen and Ink to comprise four sections — opinion/essay, poetry, short story, and miscellaneous.

The last section could include anything from script to satire, she explained.

“I know there are a lot of online publications run by adults,” Scarpati told The Press in an interview, “but one I hadn’t noticed yet was one run by students.”

Scarpati said she hasn’t ruled out the possibility of moving into print once she develops a readership, possibly with the aid of local businesses.

She’s looking to fill positions for at least four section editors (no more than eight), and anywhere from four to 15 writers, who will rotate writing responsibilities. Scarpati also mentioned the possibility of featuring up-and-coming guest writers, including adult and college-aged writers.  

This winter, Scarpati plans to creating a Facebook page for Pen and Ink.

The real test will be finding a Web designer to put Pen and Ink out to the world. She hopes to find a designer to build the website by March 1.

Inspiration

Scarpati said her love of writing is a relatively recent discovery.

“I found out this year that I actually really enjoy writing,” she said.

Part of that was thanks to an assignment Scarpati did for school on Homer’s The Odyssey. Tasked with reimagining a scene from The Odyssey, she recast the goddess Athena’s aid to the intrepid and long-suffering Greek soldier as a lover’s helping hand.

She opted to mimic Homer’s poetic style in her scene, drawn from eons of Greek oral tradition. “I just really liked it,” said Scarpati. “I thought that maybe I could do more things like that.”

She submitted the piece to the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, which inspired her choice of sections for Pen and Ink.

“I was thinking, ‘Wow, if you could create a magazine out of these categories, that would be really cool,’” she told The Press.

On writing

Scarpati said her next big challenge as a writer is improving her narrative flow — ensuring that each sentence joins together with the next.

“I know sometimes when I write short stories, I rush into points without really taking time to map things out,” she said.

Scarpati previously wrote for Choate Rosemary’s satirical student newspaper, but she said the school’s insistence on running only the most watered-down jokes was stifling.

“We make a joke that could be the slightest bit insensitive if you think about it in a really ridiculously specific way,” she said, and the club would cut it.

For that reason, Scarpati said, she wants to keep Pen and Ink totally outside of school interference. She believes this independence will fill a need for young people to truly express themselves — a perspective that is often overlooked, she told The Press.

“I’m really looking forward to showcasing our writing skills to the community,” Scarpati said. “I feel like that’s something that people should be proud of.”