There’s Something About Tavi: Meeting a Teen Publishing Guru

When teenage internet sensation Tavi Gevinson hit Melbourne recently, many book lovers older than their twenties were somewhat bemused by the breathless excitement that greeted her visit. They wondered: who is she, what exactly is Rookie (her online magazine), and why are young women so into it?

We sent 16-year-old writer Billie Tumarkin along to Tavi’s MWF events to report back on her appeal - and explain why Rookie Mag ‘stands at the front of an online revolution about how the media talks to, or rather with, teens’.

Tavi Gevinson, the 17-year-old Teen-Queen of creative youths, is about to enter the room. A hundred teens have become asthmatics; breathing is for wimps.

We are waiting.


Like a cult of some sort we become captivated by the possibility of the presence of a 17-year-old girl the size of a porcelain doll. Dear e.e. cummings, I’m sure you weren’t lying when you wrote ‘nobody, not even the rain, has such small hands’, but have you met Tavi?

We are waiting.

And there she is.

The room gasps. We all collectively sway beneath a paralysis induced by her appearance, partially knowing our response is ridiculous, partially trying not to faint.

I scribble on my notepad ‘she’s just a girl in a floral dress … I think.’

An 11-year-old Tavi Gevinson started an online fashion blog called The Style Rookie, and it got huge. On the back of this success she started Rookie Magazine in 2011, an online magazine aimed at teenage girls (and read by many outside the demographic). The website – weird and wonderful looking – holds within its pages poetry, fiction, articles, compilations, videos, art and all other form of creative mayhem about what it is, isn’t and could be like being a teenage girl.

Tavi, who has just started her last year of school, is its editor-in-chief.

Tavi was invited by the Melbourne Writers Festival to spread herself like fresh butter on our cultural bread. Tavi is a new flavour, the new flavour; she is poster girl for a type of teenager who may be a statistical minority but will jump atop of trees to be seen above the crowd. I heard Tavi speak twice – once at her MWF keynote, the second time at a three-hour creative-fest called Rookie Day.

Portrait of Billie Tumarkin

Billie Tumarkin is a young writer and musician. She is currently studying classical voice at the University of Melbourne. Her work has appeared in Birdee Mag, the Hoopla, the Under Age and at In 2015, she was one of Melbourne Writers Festival’s '30 under 30'.