At 17, Meg Hayertz spends an unusual amount of time sipping Chai tea lattes at coffee shops around Portland.
Two of her favorite haunts are Willamette Coffee House on Eighth Court in West Linn and Powell's Book Store on Burnside.
Last year, she spent entire days at Portland's annual 'Wordstock,' going from one reading to another - never getting enough.
She'll go anywhere an author is reading poetry, short stories or excerpts from a book.
'I love going to poetry readings,' Hayertz said. '(The writer) will take something that is mundane and make it seem like an extraordinary event. It's magical.'
The free expression of thought is what motivates this teen-ager. Her writing has been described as among the best by the Alliance for Young Artists and Writers. One of her short stories was published last fall in a book entitled: 'The Best Teen Writing of 2007.'
She apparently gained part of her talent at birth, while part is being learned from other writers. Her regular visits with professional writers give this West Linn High School senior another view of reality.
Listening to other authors' ways of painting pictures with words, Hayertz learns how to write with interesting writing styles. But of great importance to a young woman in the prime of her mind's development, listening to others' writing adds depth to her view of today's world.
A major thrust of Hayertz's life today is shaping a view of today's society and finding her place in it.
'I have a little chunk of my philosophy in every story,' she said. 'That solidifies a world view that I'm building for myself.'
That amount of thought requires a lot of paper.
The thoughts emerge on scraps of paper, napkins, gum wrappers and find their way to her computer screen in various forms such as poetry, short stories and theatrical dramas. They come out in free verse containing no rhyme; they appear as unrelated scenarios in a stream of consciousness; and they materialize as fantasy in an everyday world.
Hayertz is a prolific writer. She apparently isn't affected by the demon that lurks in the shadows of many authors' minds. 'Writer's block' is not in her vocabulary.
'I've been able to free up my mind,' she said, 'and not have that inner critic saying: 'Well, that's a bad sentence. Go back and rewrite it.' I've squashed that voice, and I just keep going.'
While her writing has followed various styles over several years, currently she says it could be described as 'magical realism.' That means the storyline is punctuated with fantasy, even though the story might be identifiable as real-life.
But she is often affected by another writer's curse. Hayertz is surprised because she doesn't always know where a story is going until her writing draws to a close.
Admitting that she's not plot-driven, Hayertz says she develops characters and tells stories about their lives.
She's explores the hidden recesses of her mind to find remnants of images that will come together when pen is applied to paper.
'Writing is the realization of thought,' she said. 'You have all these thoughts that are potentially interesting, but you don't realize them all the time. You think subconsciously, but once you write them down you become aware of your interaction with the world around you.'
Hayertz uses different forms of expression for special purposes. She calls poetry magical, and she writes those short verses to meditate on a theme. She describes storytelling as an exploration that helps her forge a philosophy.
In fact, one of her favorite subjects at school centers on psychology and philosophy, which might join creative writing as a second major when she attends Knox College (Galesburg, Ill.) later this year.
Hayertz will probably be looking for independent studies at college, just like she is doing now at West Linn High School.
'I've been really lucky with what this school has allowed me to do,' she said. 'I changed my graduation requirements so I could write more.'
Currently, she does independent study for two of her classes, one for poetry and one for fiction writing. She also excels at Advance Placement Psychology, AP English, French and Honors Humanities. She also gets independent help on her writing from WLHS teachers Bret Freyer and David Frick, but she cannot forget any of her English teachers - especially Lisa Root, her freshman English teacher.
Freyer says Hayertz writes poetry faster and better than he can give her feedback on her verses.
'She works so hard at it,' he said. 'She writes constantly. Writing is a way of life for her. She's thoughtful and insightful for someone so young, but she has a nice balance about what's beautiful and what's frustrating in the world.'
Frick says Hayertz has a 'prodigal talent,' and her poetry is 'full of clever word play that enlivens readers' senses.'
'In writer's workshop (last year),' Frick said, 'when Meg would read, the students would fall into a hushed reverie. And the best compliment I can give her is that her stories have multiple levels that you may uncover on multiple readings.'
After graduating from Knox, Hayertz is planning to become a clinical psychologist, she says, 'because psychology fascinates me.'
But seeing her name on the shelves of Powell's Book Store is her ultimate goal, and clinical psychology might provide two necessities in the interim: an income as well as ideas for writing.
'I really think it would be good for me, personally and as a writer, to work at an actual job that would help people,' she said. 'My ideas start in the real world, and then I just come up with a more fun way of describing them.'
Where will this teen writer be seen next?
The latest Hayertz sighting was at Coffee Time on Northwest 21st in The Pearl, where she was seen with a friend writing a stage play. And what about the next sighting? No one knows where. Just look for a tall, slim teen girl with a pixie cut, holding a Chai latte. Hayertz will be the girl who appears enthralled with the poet's reading - inspired by the coffee shop's fragrance and thought-provoking verses that fill the room.
A poem by Meg Hayertz
Zoom in: window
on frog, heart bugging out of wet white flesh,
creating rain-soaked trees with
Crowds, rivers and rain are all the same-
many sounds funneled into one low voice. 'Without
music, life would be a mistake,' Nietzsche said
one day in the pouring rain while
in Spain a bullfighter swung his red cape
through the air and back around
itself, flaring it into a cone, hearing not
one thousand individual screams
but rather the collective unconscious, one low
mass voice that disappear-
when the bull flared his nostrils once and the man's
out round and then back in tight
like the frog on the window or, from
your perspective on the couch:
the window on the frog.