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Rise of a ‘Geeky’ Poet: How Rhiannon McGavin Built a Path to Youth Poet Laureate of Los Angeles

[dropcap size=big]R[/dropcap]hiannon McGavin is a writer born and raised in Hollywood. She began making YouTube videos in 2010 at the age of 12 which lead to a steady climb of over 38,000 subscribers. By 2016 Rhiannon was named Youth Poet Laureate of Los Angeles and a winner of the Young Arts for Spoken Word Poetry.

She earned the title of Youth Poet Laureate for the city after placing 3rd in the previous two years. Rhiannon first applied at the age of 16 and admits her writing improved tremendously since her prior attempts.

“I was having a difficult time in high school so I decided every time someone was weird towards me, I would go home and do 10 pushups or I would apply for another writing thing,” she notes. “But even so, contests aren’t everything. The most important thing is that you’re proud of what you’re working on and writing about something you want to read.”

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If social media is someone’s primary creative output, that can be very harmful.

Rhiannon credits most of her success to accessible opportunities. “So much of my education was predicated on access to the point where I understood it doesn’t matter how much someone wants something. If no one opens that door for them then it is so much more difficult.”

Her advice for aspiring writers is to practice reading more than writing in a place where no one can see. “If social media is someone’s primary creative output, that can be very harmful,” Rhiannon says. “You need that intimate space without other people watching what you’re doing to make good art.”

You can find Rhiannon on any given day watering her garden, walking her puppy, calling up a friend for a good laugh, and of course reading and writing. “I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t writing something,” she says. “I was always like a really nerdy kid. Other kids would make fun of me at school for talking about Shakespeare and books.”

As a toddler Rhiannon recalls making picture books for her grandparents as gifts. She was later enrolled in a community theatre group for Shakespeare plays where she was exposed to poetry and wrote her first poem for a boy she had a crush on.

I’ve been making YouTube videos since I was 12, like before it was cool and profitable.

In 2012, Rhiannon started freshman year of high school. She tried theatre but continued writing poetry after Get Lit, a non-profit organization, visited the campus to teach a creative writing class once a week.

Rhiannon says, “At that point acting classes weren’t very fun for me.”

Rhiannon also grew up around filmmaking equipment and editing software that allowed her to explore her creativity at a young age. Over the next few years she began establishing herself as the Geeky Blonde on YouTube with videos ranging in topics such as Shakespeare, writing, cosmetics, books, and poetry.

“I’ve been making YouTube videos since I was 12, like before it was cool and profitable,” she says. “Growing up online and having so much of my adolescence documented has been interesting to process. Even if I’m deeply embarrassed now, I thought it was the coolest thing when I was 13, and I have to honor that to some extent.”

In the future, Rhiannon has plans to write another book. She is also pursuing her undergrad as an English major at UCLA which still allots dedicated time for poetry. “I’m trying to figure out how to make time for creative writing on my own without a deadline in mind,” she says. “I just love writing. I will do it for as long as I can in as many forms as possible.”

For more information visit Rhiannon McGavin’s Instagram. Below, an original poem:

RELATED: From a Stutter to the Tonight Show: How Rudy Francisco Became a Poetry Slam Champion

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