Join me at the UW Bookstore on Wednesday October 2 at 6-7 PM to discuss Writers in the Secret Garden: Fanfiction, Youth, and New Forms of Mentoring! I would love to see everyone there. I’ll be showing some cool visualizations of our data, talking about some surprising results, and signing books. We’ll have homemade cookies and cider.

If you haven’t had a chance to read our book, here’s a brief FAQ:

What inspired you to write Writers in the Secret Garden?Writers in the Secret Garden book cover

When I was 10, I read The Lord of the Rings for the first time and fell in love with the world. But I thought the story needed more female characters.

So I wrote my own version, re-gendering several of the main characters — and adding a few more adventures I thought they should have had.

I never showed that story to anyone, and I had no idea I was writing fanfiction — fiction that builds on the characters or settings from someone else’s creative work. I didn’t know what I was doing was part of a long creative tradition in human history.

Fast forward to 2013 at the University of Washington. One day, I had lunch with my colleague Katie Davis, a specialist in digital youth and education. We happened to talk about a couple of news stories where “experts” were claiming that young people couldn’t write. But Katie and I didn’t believe it. We both personally knew young people who wrote lengthy stories and sophisticated essays. Many were also heavily involved in fan communities and fanfiction websites.

The contradiction between what the experts said and what kids were actually doing struck us as fertile ground for research. So we started a collaboration that would last many years and lead us in surprising directions.

What’s the book about?

An in-depth examination of the novel ways young people support and learn from each other though participation in online fanfiction communities.

treemapOver the past twenty years, amateur fanfiction writers have published an astonishing amount of fiction in online repositories. More than 1.5 million enthusiastic fanfiction writers—primarily young people in their teens and twenties—have contributed nearly seven million stories and more than 176 million reviews to a single online site,

In our book, my co-author Katie Davis and I found that fanfiction sites are not shallow agglomerations of pop culture but rather online spaces for sophisticated and informal learning. Through their participation in online fanfiction communities, young people find ways to support and learn from one another.


I hope you can make it!