Juvenilia, or works created by an author in their youth and before adulthood, are often associated with literature but can encompass other creative disciplines such as music, art, and film.
The concept of juvenilia allows for a degree of leniency when judging quality. A juvenile work may be less polished but more likely to represent an artist’s authentic voice.
Many authors publish juvenilia after establishing themselves as writers – either because they want to give something back to younger fans or harking back to a simpler time in their lives. Sometimes, it is only published posthumously – such as JD Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye.
Whether published or not, juvenilia can offer insights into how an author’s writing developed. From JK Rowling’s early Harry Potter stories, we can see her style changing quite quickly.
Juvenilia matters. In publishing terms, it represents a crucial stage in both the development of an author and their work: when you’re honing your craft, trying out different genres and styles, and refining your voice. It’s also when the work starts coming together, slowly becoming what will be published rather than just notes toward that outcome.
Without juvenilia, many books (and authors) wouldn’t make it into print because you need this period of development and refinement for the book and author to become good enough.