I have a 17 year old daughter, who is an amazing writer. She is writing , and almost done, a book about a (redacted.) I was wondering if you could guide me on who to talk too about getting it published?
I could but I'm not gonna.
The best thing you can do for a kid who loves to write is just let them write.
Let them write 486 novels, short stories, novellas, poems, and cereal box copy if they want to.
Writing and being published are two very different things.
Publishing will break your heart. Writing will fill your heart.
You pick which one you want for your kid.
That said, if your kid wants to be published, she'll figure out how to google "how to get published" without any help from Mum, Dad, or Aunt SharklyOne.
And like a butterfly breaking free of her cocoon, it's important that your kid do the work herself. She needs to beat her wings against the barriers to get strong.
And if you absolutely cannot help yourself, buy her a book on how to get published like Writers Digest Guide to Agents, and then sit on your hands and tape your mouth, then go bake cookies or adopt a kitten. Writers need cookies, and kittens. (The bourbon will come later.)
"Publishing will break your heart. Writing will fill your heart."
If you are a writer, you WILL write, regardless of whether a contract is waiting.
This is great advice. Interesting that the parent didn't indicate that the child had expressed a wish to publish.
Great advice. Let her fill her heart.
Opie: Imagine having three children who write stories, and write well, but have no desire to be published or get into publishing at all. My FirstBorn enjoys writing fantasy, but wants to go into music theater. My SecondBorn and FourthBorn both create characters with extensive back stories, and have written for them. FourthBorn writes stories for her characters that she then tells to her friends and younger sisters, who await each installment with bated breath. SecondBorn wants to go to China, Japan, or Korea, and teach English. FourthBorn wants a career in animation or movie production (she loves video editing).
What's a writer Dad to do? Let them be themselves. Though I'm hoping FirstBorn and FourthBorn will come with me to Donna's book launch on Tuesday so they can meet a published author and get a taste of what it's like to live that dream. :)
Agreed, have her keep writing. Anyone, especially at that age, who can write a whole novel is amazing. But she's way too young to have her passion crushed by finding out the hard way that she's likely not very good right now. No matter how "amazing" her mom thinks she is. We all sucked back then.
Ten years ago me would look at my writing from fifteen years ago me and be amazed at how much I sucked then compared to now. Then five years ago me would look at ten years ago me and think the same thing. As does today me to five years ago me. I can only imagine what five years from now me will think about the quality of writing today me scrawls out.
I cringe reading stuff I wrote when I was 17. But you know what? It still gives me warm memories. Because while the chops were lacking, the story was there. The passion was there. And I thought it was great at the time, even if nobody saw it, and that fueled me to keep writing. To keep learning. To grow. And to get to a point where fifteen years ago me could scoff at 17 year old me.
Oh, and this:
Mum, Dad, or Aunt SharklyOne
Clearly, if I'm to win over Janet, I need to work on keeping my British accent... ;)
Okay, so I told my kid, (she was a teenager at the time), that
I entered a Writer’s Digest Contest, (again). She read the piece.
Hey mom, says she, I’ve never written a short story before but I have an idea, do you think I could enter?
Sure sweetie, go for it.
I read her story, um...not bad. She sent it.
Over 700 people entered.
My piece ended up as a lonely pea at the bottom of the stew pot. My kid’s story came in second.
Damn kids. They’ll show you up every time.
Colin,There is plenty of time. My story goes something like: theater, science, teaching, knitwear design, science writing, fiction. (Off-off-topic, I would love to see timelines of commentators' jobs, careers, and creative pursuits). Theater is a great entree into fiction - getting inside a character's head, making up backstory, thinking about what an emotion does to your body and how to physically portray it, I could go on and on. I think Shakespeare is the best for it because there are no stage directions and a wider range of interpretive possibilities.
OP: I just wrote a scene exploring the heart of Janet's response two days ago - All true knowledge is earned by one's self. Teenagers recognize this instinctively; it's why they pull back so much from their parents. If publishing is in the back of her head, the less you do, the more likely she is to pursue it, and be successful.
I'll stop rambling - Janet's advice is just so near to my heart - it's why I write YA, and why I think YA is so popular. There is something special about breaking free for the first time. (I do think we have other renditions as adults, which is why so many adults read YA - we can still identify).
Great post! Only in making the kid work for it will she truly appreciate her talents and the work it takes to become a published writer--if that's her goal!
This is the best advice ever, ever, ever.
I was the kid who was always writing in school--jotting down notes in the locker room before gym, pausing to write snippets in the hallway in the middle of conversations with friends, using study hall to flesh out scenes. Then, my senior year of college, I had trouble finding the passion and the words. it was like the real world hit me and I didn't know how or what to write. That lasted a couple of years, and I'm so relieved I got it back. Some of my friends from college who had similar passions and dreams didn't, which makes me sad.
When you're young, creativity can be nurtured organically. But as you grow older, life has a way of interfering, and that's when the writing becomes work. And when something becomes work, it takes on a bitter taste.
That's why this is the best advice. If they really want to get published right away, help them learn the ropes. But nurture and encourage the act of writing so it remains a joy.
Steve: Spot on. You learn so much just through experience. When I look back on what I wrote as a sixteen-year old, I'm impressed--for a sixteen-year old. But there's a world of difference between then and now because I was only just discovering myself, never mind my voice. In that way, it's exciting to see what writing future us will produce.
Carolynn: Ouch! I can't blame you, that stings a little. But you can be proud you raised a writer ;)
Rachel:"All true knowledge is earned by one's self." I love the way you put that.
My timeline in one hundred words
life in three countries
art school in two countries
natural food store craft shop
children’s musical theater
five full length original productions
record/produce radio show for NPR
compose/record music for Polar Express type event
TV commercials produce/write/edit
custom music for children’s parks
custom scripts for children’s parks
fund raising videos for non-profits
PR for animal shelters
documentaries produce edit
audio tour write in English, produce French and German
turn video studio into airbnb
Just recently, a relative asked if I would help their Loved One get published. Relative assured me Loved One is "an amazing writer." I emailed Loved One telling them the usual ‘getting published is very difficult’ and urged LO to start by reading Janet’s blog and Query Shark. Relative mentioned LO writes in more than one genre, so I explained that agents have specialties. I also gave LO a rundown of agents vs. self-pub.I reminded LO that other than a piece of flash fiction which I sold to an obscure zine, I'm not what you'd consider 'published.'
I look at getting published like we looked at our children’s college education. We didn’t pay for our children’s college education partly because we couldn’t afford to and partly because finding a way to finance their own education is half of their education right there. It made them focus on what they really wanted, and they didn’t squander their time and money on partying.
I'm willing to point Loved One in the right direction, and I’ll answer questions she may have along the way, if I’m able. But the journey is hers. As Janet has often said, writing is a skill but publishing is a business. And you've got to learn about the business.
OP: If you go the "give her resources" route, send her to the Snarkives. I read Miss Snark religiously between the ages of 11 and 14 and I still credit it with building a lot of my understanding of what it takes to succeed in the publishing industry. It will either scare her off (in which case, she's still writing, and good for her!) or excite her (in which case, she's golden) how tough it can all be.
And if it ever comes up, remind her that she's not competing against other 17-year-olds; she's competing against everyone who wants to be published. That was an important one for me as well.
This is the perfect response, Janet.
Really. Just perfect.
It has me wondering, though, if the OP has had her own dreams of publication, maybe sitting on a back burner for a while. [Autocorrect wanted to make that "beach burger", and now I'm hungry]
Maybe that's not the case, but dig deep, OP. Take a look at your motivations. They might just be a desire to see your child's talents recognized. But if there's more going on, it's worth paying attention.
And doing something about it.
Your child is going to be fine either way. Let her explore development of her craft with freedom and pure enjoyment, and without pressure. If she chooses it as a career path for herself, there will be enough pressure later on. Let her live some stories of her own and fill that creative well with joy to draw from throughout her life, as a writer or whatever she chooses.
If she chooses writing, your clear belief in her ability will be a great and necessary source of support, I'm certain.
When my #2 son was 3yo, three separate doctors told me he would never talk. In fact, they said by about age 12 he would probably become dangerous to himself and others and would need to be placed in an institution.
I have great empathy for those parents for whom those prognoses became accurate. And I know several for whom it has.
But not my son.
When he was about 10yo, he wasn't dangerous but it was true that he didn't talk. He wanted to watch a Thomas the Tank Engine video so he popped the video into the player and grabbed the remote control like he'd seen us do. He figured out how to turn on the TV and play the video. During that process, he accidentally pressed the closed-captioning button.
He then proceeded to teach himself how to read.
We got him Thomas books from the library and he watched the videos and read the books at the same time. This progressed to other books and videos.
And he started talking.
This boy that three doctors [and two were specialists] told me would never talk and would need to live in an institution is now 20 years old and still lives at home. He talks. He reads. He does his chores without prompting. He helps us with projects without whining and many times without even being asked. He is not at all dangerous, unless you count that he's a hug factory, which I admit can get him into trouble because he will sometimes randomly hug people even if he doesn't know them [yes, the police have been called at times].
Support your daughter, but let her find her own way. You might be very pleasantly surprised at the result.
I'm well-educated, vintage, and embarrassed at how long it has taken me to become proficient at writing fiction well. It's wonderful that younger writers have the wide world of the web to carouse in to learn the ropes. I hope that young writer adds some life experience to those writing chops and creates bestsellers.
You should encourage children in all ways. It is not just a teaching experience but also a learning experience. That is good for both you as a writer and the child as whatever they grow up to be.
If you can show a child the path to gaining experience you may have opened the door for them to reach critical mass and become fully functional. Help them up from their first few falls and then set them free. That is as far as you can go because that child is not you and is not cast in your image. Just try to teach them that it is acceptable to learn from your mistakes.
Everyone has to learn the dance steps themselves.
I love hearing about young writers, (YW) but I love QOTKU's advice even more. It's in line with the post the other day on failure. Yw needs to make mistakes, (fail) learn from them, and move on. YW needs to experience critiques, criticisms, and praise. That said, I think a lot of this should come from her learning environment for now - peers at her school, English teachers, Creative Writing teachers, etc.
Maybe one day this young writer will be in that category from The National Book Foundation, 5 Under 35.
Great post and comments. I have had a somewhat-related question on my mind. My 12-year-old daughter likes to write, and a few days ago she mentioned that she was thinking of writing a book she could sell to friends/family to help her fundraise for tennis camp. A few years ago, she self-published a 9,000-word story on Lulu and gave it to family members at Christmas, which everyone loved.
My inclination is to be encouraging and definitely NOT to bring up the issues around traditional publishing vs. self-publishing. I figure she can get into that on her own, preferably much later, and that anything she self-publishes as a 12- or 13-year-old would not count against her "debut" if she wants to go the traditional publishing route later. Does anyone disagree?
Off-topic, I had a bad dream last night that my WIP turned out to be a sequel to The Left Hand of Darkness, and therefore I wouldn't be able to publish it without Ursula K. Le Guin's permission to use her characters, which I doubted she would grant.
Mark: My understanding from what Janet has said is that if it doesn't have an ISBN number, agents will not consider it published. That doesn't mean your future nytba-daughter won't find people digging up her 12-year-old self-pubbed work. But that's not necessarily a bad thing. They might look at it as a foreshadowing of future literary genius. :)
Colin, that makes sense. My vague recollection is that the short book she published a few years ago did have an ISBN number, although I could be wrong. (I can check when I get back home.) Is having an ISBN number or not typically an option one can select on self-publishing sites?
Sharyn, that was brilliant =). I checked out your profile - and I used to go to a girl scout camp in North Conway. I love that area of the White Mountains (my parents have since moved deeper into the Green than the White).
Speaking of timelines, I need to make on for my WIP, to make sure I don't have any llamas moving at the speed of light (its fantasy, but not that kind).
Mark: I don't know... but I'm sure there are others who do... :)
What a great post. As a mom of three teens including a senior in high school, I admit I need these constant reminders to step back.
It's not easy. I want our kids to take advantage of their energy and youth and limitless future and make progress NOW.
Looking back at my distant teenage life, I recognize plenty of my own missed opportunities. There is the temptation to lift our kids over the wall of all of the mistakes, flake-outs, procrastination and self-doubt, depositing them on a clear road with confidence into adult success. I have to tell myself that I turned out okay, scrambling for toeholds and taking some rough falls. Yet I learned plenty along the way, and they can do the same! (Right?)
I got what I deserved when I tried to give guidance to a relative’s child.
The mother called and asked if I could give her grown-up child guidance on writing and publishing a children’s book (like I knew!). The mother had already bought the child some sort of kit to walk through the process of writing a good children’s book.
I spent eight to ten hours compiling a list of websites, programs, nearby writing groups, books on writing, etc and emailed them to the child.
No “Thank you.”
No “I have received it.“
No “That was useful.”
And of course no book ever written.
Dena: That's wonderful. Thank you so much for sharing your story. I'm so glad your son is thriving, and that he has parents like you who never gave up/always support.
Mark: I'm not familiar with Lulu, but both CreateSpace and IngramSpark (which is linked to Lightning Source) require ISBNs to publish through them. You can either purchase and assign ISBNs through Bowker, or CreateSpace can assign you one they've purchased themselves (listing themselves as the publisher).
As far as your daughter printing through Lulu, it could be that they're similar to CreateSpace if they require the ISBN at all. As to whether that will affect her chances of publishing in the future, I can't speak to that. But I think it's amazing that your daughter is showing this initiative and ingenuity (not to mention creativity!). If you're really concerned about publishing and ISBNs, places like OfficeMax does a nice job of book-binding for amateur projects. That might be another option.
What a beautiful post, Janet. "Publishing will break your heart. Writing will fill your heart." is getting taped to the side of my computer screen. But I do think the girl *would* benefit from reading Aunt Sharkly One's advice. So many writing blogs/forums relentlessly bombard you over the head with all the grim realities & statistics of the book biz - which I know is the truth - that it just saps the will. But you manage to make writers feel encouraged, validated, and respected, while never sugar-coating anything. Not a feat everyone can carry off, and it's much appreciated. Writing Will Fill Your Heart. Yes.
read Miss Snark religiously between the ages of 11 and 14
Miss Snark faints dead aaway at the idea of an innocent 11-year-old reading her blog.
Susan: These are very helpful thoughts -- thanks!
She might try getting a story published in The Claremont Review, the international magazine for young writers
Joseph Snoe, I got no reply either from Loved One.
Oh, and about what Miri said, that your teen is not competing against other teens, but EVERYONE who wants to be published--that's so important to remember. Janet has noted from time to time that you shouldn't mention your age in a query, whether you're 9 or 90. It doesn't matter. The story and the writing count. When you get to the offer of representation, that's when you mention, "By the way, I'm not old enough to sign a contract." Because that's the only reason your age would matter (and it's okay for your parent/guardian to sign for you).
OP, besides the advice to encourage to keep writing, be sure to keep her reading. The more you read the better you write. You learn what captures the reader and you learn that some published writers don't even know how to write (or proof read). All the nuances of writing get inserted into your brain without you knowing they are there. Keep reading is at least important as keep writing.
My five year old grand daughter was thrilled to finish reading her first book this week; word count, 37 words...not counting 'The End'. (I have the video ;) Now she wants to learn to read faster so she can "...read more books than Nanna does".
She also wants to draw pictures and write stories about them. AND of course she want to be a "Cheetah Doctor", a ballet dancer, a Bug/Rock collector and, of course, a warrior princess.
Encourage your 17 year old to never, ever stop reading, it will always improve her writing.
Kate: Tell your grand daughter, if she becomes a writer, she can be all those things--and MORE! ;)
Having been around here forever, I can remember a lot of subjects that have been touched on. One of those subjects was about a well-meaning mother who published her child's book. The family, of course, was thrilled and all bought a copy, but that was about it. Years later, the writer matures, has kept on writing, and is about to be published "for real".
Oops, she or he isn't a debut writer because Mom "helped out" lo those many years ago. Debut is important.
The story about the butterfly is absolutely spot on. If a butterfly doesn't beat their wings against the chrysalis as they are emerging, the wings will be too weak for flight. Well-meaning people think they are helping by cutting the struggling butterfly out and all they do is doom it to a flightless, very short life.
When my oldest was in high school, he competed in all three rough stock events, saddle bronc, bareback, and bullriding. At one rodeo, he hung up to a saddle bronc very badly and got kicked in the head. We thought the way his head snapped back it broke his neck. People were holding me back from going over the fence into the arena, because they all thought the same and didn't want me to see him.
He was temporarily blind and knocked out for a good long while; dozens of stitches to sew his scalp back together.
He had another rodeo the next weekend and would draw out, but did ride with a helmet as the doctor recommended it if he insisted on riding.
The announcer went over the horrific accident and explained why he was wearing a helmet the next weekend at the next rodeo. Two couples behind me got into a discussion about "stage mothers" and how disgusting they were for forcing their children to compete injured.
I turned around and said, "Actually, I'm his mother. I begged him not to ride, but it's the end of the season and he's trying to get to the finals. He needs every point he can get. If he makes it to the finals he can get a rodeo scholarship and go to college, which is very important to him. Thank you for your understanding."
"We didn't know."
"No, you didn't, but you passed judgment anyway, didn't you?"
You have to be supportive and believe in your child while making sure the track they're on is the one they want to be on, not Mama and Daddy. Or, let them try dozens of tracks. Sometimes you just need to get off the track and out of their way.
Dena I have so much respect for you, your family, and your son.
And this is how my day is going to go, I guess. The alien autopsy on my computer just failed. How do you fail an autopsy?
Is everyone missing the fact that Miss Snark dropped in???
I was thinking Miss Snark was...um. Off line? On permanent vacation? Off limits? Kaput?
Anyway - hilarious comment from her.
Okay, I had to go double check on Miss Snark's blog. I was right - no new posts since...2007. (!)
This is like a resurrection.
Colin I used to take my youngest son to the matinee with me. There was ten years difference between him and his older brother and nine between him and #2, so at the end he was an only child. I'm not sure how it happened, but he turned into a critic, and a pretty darned good one.
We'd discuss plot, characters, dialogue, and all those other writerly things. He's definitely not a writer, but he recognizes good writing. It frustrates me because he has the mind for it and he's good at stories, he just doesn't enjoy the process.
When he got back from Iraq he said, Mom, I've got an idea for a great story I came up with while I was in the sandbox. He then laid out this amazing suspense story that knocked my socks off. His MOS was Bradley tank mechanic, but Texas got rid of their Bradleys so he wound up assisting the supply sergeant. Think Radar from MASH. He made things happen and did a lot of wheeling and dealing. He also became an armorer since the civilian hired to repair weapons didn't know his butt form a hole in the ground and was so slow the men were about to string him up. They had enough confidence in him that even the SEAL team there started bringing their weapons to him.
So, between that and dealing with the natives a lot, he comes up with this astounding story. I tell him he should write it. He says, no, but I'll tell it to you and you can write it.
All right. That works.
All hell breaks loose and we are dealing with some serious issues trying to get custody of his baby. He finally does and we get back to thinking about the book.
Neither one of us can remember the story. To this day we can't.
Couldn't agree more with Janet's advice. OP made me think of Christopher Paolini's parents who self-published their son's first novel, travelled extensively to promote it, and it became a huge success. That's a pretty amazing achievement for a teenager, and I would like to make it very clear that I wish him all the best and that I haven't written anything that's as successful as his series. BUT... I tried to read the book and it was like reading a beginning writer's work. Yes, it's an achievement for a 15-year-old, but it's certainly not a work of genius. It's full of clichés and problematic writing. I wonder what Paolini's debut would have been if he'd been allowed to develop first as a writer, outside the spotlights.
Dena, I loved your story about your son. All the best to your family.
Miss Snark has been gone for a long time, but I still peruse the archives. Thank goodness she left them up. Every now and then she and her stilettos pop up, though.
Some things I forgot to comment on earlier:
"Publishing will break your heart. Writing will fill your heart."
Sub-header nomination. This is wonderful, Janet. :)
Dena: Your story about your son is both heart-warming and inspiring. Thank you for sharing, and for clearly being an awesome parent.
Donna: I saw Miss Snark's appearance. I figure she's among the lurkers, drawn out by an acknowledgement of her work, as I'm sure any of us would be. I don't doubt this blog is frequented by many industry pros, bloggers, writers, etc., many of whom lurk in the background, read the blog, maybe glance through the comments... :)
I think Janet's advice is right on the money. I really like this: "She needs to beat her wings against the barriers to get strong."
I would never want to crush a teenager's spirit, but here's a great blog post that lays it all out there, vis a vis the challenges of the publishing world. The essential message is to go in with eyes wide open, then work really hard to try and set the world on fire :
For fun, I'm going to experiment with Colin's Hyperlink instructions:
The Long(er) View
Lest you despair, the post lists many things we can and should do to improve our chances, most of which we've already read right here courtesy of Janet and the Reef!
At Surrey, I really enjoyed the dissecting of anonymous "first pages" at an "Idol" read panel; where a small group of Agents yay or neighed while Jack Whyte read some very brilliant work. Later that day, recognizing that I needed to hear more of other's work for a nice respite from all the information floating around in my head, I popped into a poetry open mic session.
"Do you want to read also, shall I add you to the list?" asked Surrey's Poet Laureate.
"Oh no, I am just here to listen" I replied.
"Wonderful!" She beamed an energetic smile at me and then beamed an encouraging one at the current reader who began her couplets. We listened.
Soon I was distracted by the person sitting alone next to me- a very nervous, fidgeting teenager who kept glancing at her phone. "Must be expecting a text," I groaned inside.
No. No, she wasn't.
Before it was too late, this fidgety teenager raised her hand when Surrey's Poet Laureate asked if anyone else wanted to read. "This is your last chance" she called out enthusiastically.
Trembling like a willowy flower in the wind, the young teenager next to me raised her hand. She stood up in front of the room and began to read her poem off of her phone.
And proceeded to knock the boots off of everyone in the room. I'm pretty sure there wasn't a dry eye there, but I couldn't tell you for sure as I had something in both of my eyes. She spoke of a broken family, hers, of loss, illness, divorce, family and how you cannot lose hope. It was so incredible that Surrey's Poet Laureate made the statement of "PERFECT! I wish I had that piece for my class to review, just perfect!"
A small crowd gathered around this trembling girl afterward as it was time for us to go. I waited patiently until they were finished. She looked overwhelmed but still smiled hesitantly at me.
"Read out loud with confidence because you have a gift," I said. Now she was in full shy mode, head down. "You have a gift- keep using it. YOU WILL be going places, and WE WILL remember your name."
She looked up; our eyes met and she gave me a huge grin.
I smiled back at her; how could I not? It was beautiful watching her confidence grow right before our eyes. We said our goodbyes and good lucks and I turned to leave the room.
So my point being, OPIE, What better gift can you give your child but the freedom to grow, and to be encouraged by others also? JR speaks wise advice.
Yeah, good post. Sometimes I read reviews on Goodreads or Amazon and I cringe and hope the author doesn't read it or has no human emotions because man, they can rip apart a book (and an author whom I'm assuming the reviewer has never met). This even happens for books that I love.
...Not to discourage a young writer. Just, you have to have a tough skin and sometimes the process of getting there yourself can help you acquire that.
Julie "Every now and then she and her stilettos pop up, though."
LOL! Although that visual is quite sassy. Ahem.
Colin Yeah, I've thought the same thing about those that lurk, and not knowing exactly who's reading...which is why I'm glad I buttoned my lip on a particular political comment this past week.
Honestly? I feel good (now) for not responding. I typed out about three different comments, all polite, factual, and to the point. But then I remembered that FB pie chart. You change your mind = green, they change their mind = blue, nobody changes their mind, and everyone's pissed = red.
Needless to say. The pie looked like tomato.
Miss Snark, delightful to see you. I too read your archives as a young teen. Did me good.
Dena, I love the stories about your son! You have a remarkably clever young man, to figure that out.
Mark: If by 'short book' you mean under 40,000 words, it wouldn't be considered a novel, anyway. Short stories, novellas, etc., don't impact a writer's novel 'debut'.
Miss Snark faints dead aaway at the idea of an innocent 11-year-old reading her blog.
And look where it got that 11-year-old!
When I graduated high school, I was awarded the school's book prize for writing. I didn't know one existed - it hadn't been awarded in the years I was in school. I was completely surprised. My teachers were encouraging my writing.
My parents encouraged my writing, too... until it came time to go to university. "You can't get a job writing," they said. I pointed out journalism jobs, technical writing jobs, etc., but my parents figured those were pipe dreams, that no one did that sort of thing in 'real life'. It wasn't until I got ill - 15 years after I graduated - that I realized I couldn't be happy in a job that didn't involve writing. My first job as a technical writer paid more per hour than my mum ever made working at the bank. My parents admitted they were wrong.
When I later started mentioning I was serious about my fiction writing, my dad then took an interest and asked me how it was going whenever I saw him. My mum read a short Twitter story I posted, and commented that, although science fiction wasn't her thing, she was on the edge of her seat. It scared me that she was reading my work, but I'm glad she enjoyed it.
Whenever I go to Surrey and hear the wonderful keynote speakers, I always wonder what I would say in such a speech. I would tell people not to be discouraged by those who say they can't succeed or they can't make a living writing. I would tell people not to be discouraged by other writers who claim that what they want to write isn't publishable. I would try to be as encouraging as my teachers were.
My niece used to write, but her parents gave her the same speech my parents gave me. I'm hoping to prove her parents wrong, too, so she will feel brave enough to put her fiction out there. Preferably earlier in her life than I did.
As a former teacher, this advice rings true. You can't live your child's life or learn their lessons for them. Yes it is wonderful to crow your child is brilliant. But ordinary and flawed are underrated. They are good too but a different topic.
Having more than one book written helps with publishing and making a living as a writer. More importantly, being a functional adult involves learning from your own actions. It's hard to watch a child or an adult struggle. But it is those struggles that make us.
Lots of thoughtful comments are stated.
This is a great discussion all around. C M, I like your suggestion about short stories. BJ, that's an excellent point that <40,000 isn't a novel anyway.
It's an interesting balance as a parent. You want your kids to have a sense of unlimited possibility, because really, anything is possible. I suspect my daughter's self-publishing experience made her feel good about what she is capable of. (The thing that impressed me the most was the fact that she worked on her story for a year before showing it to anyone, which is certainly not something I could have done at that age. It's hard enough to do at my present age!)
At the same time, life will teach you lessons, and not every dream will come true just because you want it to -- or it won't come true in quite the way you envisioned. Usually when my own dreams have been frustrated I have subsequently concluded (rationalized?) that they weren't exactly the right dreams for me anyway.
I fully agree with Janet's and everyone else's advice about stepping back and letting kids find their own way, providing counsel and help if they ask for it but not trying to make their things our things. I may not always do a flawless job at putting the advice into practice, of course!
To come back to Ursula K. Le Guin, I recall her writing/saying that her father encouraged her writing but also suggested that writers should learn a trade of some sort.
I wrote my first two novels as a teenager and I am forever grateful that neither was published, despite a few rather inept attempts at it on my part. Even the next two I wrote make me cringe now, and one of them made the finals of a big writing contest.
I think it took 5 books before I really understood how to write one well. And I have to wonder if I would have kept trying so hard to improve if I had managed to convince someone to publish one of those first, terrible efforts.
So OP, let your daughter choose her own path. It may be this first book is practice for when she's ready for her debut.
And hello Miss Snark! Long time, no see….
Miss Snark lives!!!
Steve Forti: Well said.
CarolyNN: Congrats to your kid!
Theresa: I don't think we can infer too much from such a brief email excerpt.
Colin: YES! Let your kids be who they are. Encourage them in what they love. Sure, show them possibilities, but let them decide. So many parents push their kids places they will be miserable.
And all these stories! Man. Julie, I'm praying you and your son rediscover that story! I had two long-lost short stories show up again in my head over a decade later.
Janice, that brought tears to my eyes. What is the girl's name?
Careers & interests (Thanks, RachelErin & Sharyn):
writing (poetry, fiction)
McDonalds (1 week)
college (electrical engineering dropout)
college paper record & band reviews
college radio station newsie
Saks 5th Ave (shipping clerk)
selling flowers on the street corner
coffeehouse general help
shipping clerk for a large organization
retail sales (stereos, PA gear)
saw sharpening shop tech & manager
guitar & bass in a small band
college (computer science dropout)
short story author (unpublished)
sound guy (live bands, church)
technical author (book, columns, journals)
guitar amp tech
tube guitar amp designer (planned to sell them but had to chose between this and writing)
small local newspaper columnist
(I left out the more scurrilous bits)
I probably forgot some. but I have to get back to my day job.
Oh, and my editor and I agree the second book is ready to go! <3
Hooray for Miss Snark! Growing up with very overprotective parents, I can relate to this. Mistakes were seen as something to avoid at all costs rather than the learning experiences they are meant to be. My parents still disapprove of my less than linear existence but at least now, as an adult, I can tell them to steer clear of my path. I just hope they get more hobbies.
I once had a friend ask me to find a publisher for a fifteen-year-old boy who'd just lost his mother--to cheer the kid up, of course. My response echoed Janet's words here. And I also explained how publishing doesn't work that way. Well, maybe if your last name is Rowling, King, or Patterson, you might be able to exert that kind of influence. The rest of us, though, not so much. :)
Oh, and welcome back, Miss Snark!
I would have been mortified if my mom did that when I was a teenager! Luckily my parents were (and still are) supportive of my writing aspirations, but in a much less involved way. Instead of trying to force me to make connections, they left me alone in my room to write and were thankful for the silence.
Yes, it's good to see you again, Miss Snark. I hope the pup is doing well.
I've been lurking here for a while, always too shy to comment (and yes, I saw Janet's post about that but I was still nervous), but I actually have something to say about today's post.
I'm also 17, and wrote a book. While I've just started querying and things are looking ok now, I'm sure it won't be long til I'm waiting for the blessed day in 2020 where I can drown some of my sorrows in Janet's, ahem, other hobby. But the thing that got me through writing and waiting, and that will probably get me through the query trenches was reading. Not fiction, but articles about publishing, both traditional and self-publishing. A lot of it was more for fun than research, since most of the things I learned I couldn't apply without a book out (like how to use Kindle keywords, how to get self-pubbed books into bookstores, how to do book signings, etc.).
Reading all these articles allowed me to sort of live vicariously through other, published, authors' experiences. I read people's stories, and I learned about the really good and the really bad and that both allowed me to daydream and set realistic expectations for what publishing was like. It also gave me plenty of knowledge that I'll hopefully one day be in the position to use, but that's just a bonus.
So that's my one piece of advice for the OP: read about publishing. Read everything; agents' blogs, authors' blogs, self-pubbed authors' blogs, publishing advice blogs. Read widely, because every group of people involved in publishing has a different perspective. It shouldn't be difficult, and it should be fun; because this is what you're getting yourself into, for a few years of your life, at least and if you don't understand or like it you will not be happy. Read to understand, but also to experience. Because there are so many great stories in the publishing world, and I'm not talking about the fictional ones.
And a side note: reading all those things also gave me a big, big bonus. It made me realize how much I loved the business side of things, so I'm declaring a business/finance major on my college apps.
Hi Rayna! I enjoyed your thoughtful response to today's post and I hope you keep commenting here. Best of luck with your writing, and with your college apps. Seems like you're off to a great start!
Rayna! Welcome out from the shadows of lurkland!! :) What you say about reading and learning about publishing is right on the mark. I have absolutely no intention of getting deep into the business side of things--that's why I want an agent. However, I know I need to understand how it works at some level so I can appreciate what agents do, what editors and publishers do, how royalties work, etc. I find the more I understand, the less I worry. Note I said less, not never... ;)
Similar story, except not as happy an ending as yours.
I was the first on either side of my family to go to college (and also to graduate from college). My dad told me to study something that would get me a job.
I stayed up all night writing a paper for my Spring English class. Like something out of a Dustin Hoffman movie, my professor chased me down and caught me at the steps of the University of Texas Tower. She was hyper-excited (I was sleepy). She kept saying I must spend the summer in Colorado with a group of writers. Like, sure. In my family, Summer meant working some minimum wage job to earn money for the next school year, not frolicking with a bunch of 'artistic snobs' in the Rocky Mountains. (I learned later the professor actually read my little paper to her Creative Writing class).
She got me invited to be in Honors English program. I was also in Honors Business program. Practicality led to dropping out of the Honors English program.
Colin: Perfect, I wish I had thought about that. I will tell her tomorrow at her Halloween party! She is going as a Pirate Butterfly.
Claire and Colin: thank you for the warm welcome! I enjoyed lurking, but now that I'm here, I hope I can really get involved with this blog community in the future.
Rayna: You are very welcome. A great way to get involved is to get your name on the List of Blog Readers and Their Blogs. If you want to join the list, just drop me an email (see my Blogger profile) with your blog, twitter, tumblr, or whatever social media haunts you frequent the most. Pages you update often (e.g., blog or tumblr) are most useful, as is twitter for those that want to chat with you. :)
Rayna, that was a great intro. We look forward to hearing more from you. This is one of the coolest communities around.
Woot Woot and and a warm, pandy welcome to Rayna! In a world where people share despair over our country's future, it is so wonderful to be reminded that there are young people out there with a passion for creative work.
Never let go of that, even (or especially) when the road gets tough. But from your post (which I can assure you sounds far more together than one of mine would have been at 17) it seems that you are aware and in charge of your destiny. Let 'er rip!
Joseph: I can so relate. I, too, was the first to go to college and to graduate. My dad had wanted me to get a library technician diploma. I wanted more. Since my parents controlled the money at that time, I didn't have a lot of choice in programs. I'd wanted to take linguistics so bad, but I wasn't allowed to go to an out-of-town university and the one in town had the bare minimum of linguistic classes in the anthropology program. So I took anthropology. I was allowed to because, at that time, I could get a job in social work with that degree. Just before I graduated, the organization in charge of social workers said, no. You had to take social work degrees to work in social work. (They're regretting that limitation now.) I wound up working in a library for 12 years with my anthropology degree.
During my first year of university, 1983, I told my dad I wanted to take computer science. He asked what kind of jobs I could get in computer science. I told him that in the near future, there would be tons of jobs. He said, "You don't need a job in the future. You need a job when you get out of school." (My nephew's jaw dropped onto the table when he heard that. "You could have been rich!" he said. He's taking computer science now.)
But I suppose that happens when you come from a middle class family who doesn't understand university as a learning opportunity, rather than a road to get a job. Just remember, it took an illness that made it impossible for me to work for me to get serious about my writing. You're now a law professor (which I find very cool), and serious about writing. You're doing great!
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