Friday, May 6, 2011

Encouraging Young Writers...and a Winner!

Thanks to everyone who subscribed to my newsletter and entered the giveaway!

And the winner is ... Victoria Caswell (aka aspiring_x)!

On to our show...

Writing is a frustrating business. Everyone who has ever gotten a negative critique or a rejection on a query or simply contemplated that the odds of being traditional published are worse than being struck by lightning, already knows this.

So how, in good conscience, could you encourage anyone to take up writing, much less wide-eyed young people (like I will be teaching this summer in a workshop)?

Here's how:

Writing well is a tremendous skill to have in life. With it, you will be more successful in almost any endeavor. Creative writing helps hone the skill of story telling, as well as working those creativity muscles, which will also make you more successful in whatever paying pursuit you choose. More and more, story telling is a skill that crosses disciplines. Newspapers and non-fiction are becoming more narrative. My fourth grader made a commercial about grammar in class (because his teacher is awesome, and because telling a "story" about it beat the rule into their young brains). All the social media ways that we have to connect are miniature story bits told to tie our lives together.

Being a story teller will take you places.

I believe in being (gently) honest with everyone, including kids and teens. Publishing is a brutal business. Becoming a novelist is a hard, hard road to travel. But the skills you gain along the way are well worth the effort and will be used your entire life.

So I'll gladly encourage the teens in my workshop to write and write well.

Publishing...well, that's a different matter.

How do you encourage the young writers in your life?


  1. Writing well will stay with you for the rest of your life. I love that I've been able to help my hub with his cover letters and my kids.

  2. YAY!!!!!!!!!!!!
    WHOO HOO!!!!!!
    thanks a bunch susan!!! :) :) :)
    plus+ creative writing= FUN!!!! :)

  3. @Laura #perksofbeingawriter :)

    @aspiring_x YAY! It makes me happy that you're so excited! I love it when my blogger friends win! (of course, ya'll are MADE of WIN, so there you go).

  4. Completely agree. Dedication to the craft of writing is like the track kid in high school: he/she may never have come in first place, but he/she can keep running throughout their lives, continuing to improve. It's a skill for a lifetime. :)

  5. Publishing a novel is indeed a hard slog, but there are very healthy markets out there for short stories and poetry. I encourage the two teen writers in my youth group to be active in their school publications, to keep trying new things.

    As I've become more active submitting to literary magazines, I've met plenty of happy writers with a very fulfilling writing life publishing shorter stuff. Novels aren't for everyone, and that's perfectly OK.

  6. @Sheri Great analogy!

    @Laurel You make a very good point! I don't know much about the short markets (I quit after deciding novels were really my medium), but it is an option out there to have successes along the way.

  7. Writing for writing's sake is the most important thing. Do it because you love it, and anything else that comes of it is a bonus---at least that's what I tell young writers.

    You are so right that writing is a skill that's important in many aspects of life, especially with the social media craze. Learning a thing or two through writing creatively has helped me tremendously in the role I fell into as e-marketer for a family of boutique shops.

  8. Writing as a career is something you HAVE to do. Not really a choice. You aren't complete without it. Yes I know I am dramatic. But I'm also serious! :D Yes, writing is a very important skill to have, so I would always encourage pursuit of creativity and knowledge, and I tell my kids, you can do anything you want, you just have to put in the work to back it up. I hope that I can be an example of that for them at some point.

  9. @Nicki I think that's the perfect message! *scribbles down for my workshop* And how cool that you've got the e-marketer gig going now! I remember that boutiquer helping you when your book first came out. Love those connections!

    @Lisa You already ARE an example for your kids, by following your dream and working crazy for it. This is something that I learned early on about selfishly taking time for MY dreams - the kids are paying attention. They value hard work because they see me work hard. There's no substitute for being the example you want your kids to follow.

  10. I'm working on a story with my 9-year-old son, he asked me to write a book with him.

    We started by thinking up the main character...plant, animal, human, or alien? We went with human. Boy or girl / old or young? Young boy. What's special about him? He has a super-power: he can read minds...but only if he's looking at the person. What's his challenge? He gets kidnapped and blindfolded, rendering him powerless. He has to escape using his own wits.

    We wrote out an outline / synopsis, and it was a lot of fun thinking together. I tried to act as a catalyst for his ideas, giving some suggestions but really letting him creat the bulk of the story line. I started the typing, outlining the actions / plot points for a series of chapters in the book...but I made him take over at the keyboard about 40% into it.

  11. @Rick What a wonderful experience for you and your son! I can imagine the cool stuff that will fill that first novel of his! #GoodDad

  12. Reading is how I encourage my little one, he's only 5 years old but loves books and also drawing.

    Teens on the other hand, I've got a niece and several nephews, they're also big readers and theres a storyteller in each of them. ;-)

  13. I have an 11 year old critique partner. When I critique his work I treat him just like I treat my adult cp's. I always say what I like in the story and what I think could be improved...

  14. @Talei I bet you're an inspiration to all of them. :)

    @Sharon I love that you give him the respect as a writer to treat him as an adult. He deserves it! :)

  15. With young people (I once taught freshman English, and they're young, only 18) I'm cautious. You don't want them to stop writing. I always tell them everything that's good first. I can always find something.

    Yes, the writing "business" can be brutal. At some point, if we're serious about writing, we have to develop a tough skin and be willing to take criticism.

    I always told my freshmen students to read, read, read. I think this is the best way to learn how to write, and to write well. (My grandchildren read a lot.)

    Good post, Susan. And thanks for stopping by my blog and wishing me well on my upcoming memoir release.
    Ann Best, Memoir Author

  16. @Ann Walking that line of being honest, but not discouraging, is something I'm very aware of with these workshops coming up.

    I'm so excited for your book coming out! It's a wonderful thing - enjoy every moment (no matter how crazed)! :)

  17. I totally agree that being a storytelling will take you places--places you never imagined going. Lovely ideas, and they are so necessary in this business.

  18. @Clee I love the unexpected nature of life. Otherwise I would be terribly bored. :)

  19. I think our enthusiasm and passion is contagious. Although I'd tell anyone if they're not really into it, do something else... LOL!!! :D <3

    Happy Mother's Day, Susan!


Erudite comments from thoughtful readers