Kids & Publishing
I get so many questions about publishing from my young student writers.
“I’m going to send my book to publishers; can you look at it quick before I do that?”
“How do you get published?”
“Do you think this could get published?”
That kind of thing. The first question is the hardest, because they usually have no idea what they are asking. And mostly I want to strap them down to something heavy and say NOOOO! Do not do that!
(Mostly because I remember the shit I wrote when I was a teenager. And it makes me glad that fire exists.)
My professor and mentor Jim Heynen told me and one of my friends in college one of the best things I’d ever heard about writing. My friend had asked him, “How do I know I’m talented? That writing is worth my time?”
Jim said, “Ask me when you’re 40. Maybe by then I’ll be able to give you an answer.”
There is plenty of time. You need that time. Like Maureen Johnson says in her response piece to the NYT article about kids self-publishing, I know about Christopher Paolini. I don’t care. There is time. You’re not ready yet. You have other things to conquer before it comes to major publishing houses. There are worlds of writing that you don’t even understand yet – little magazines, literary journals, journalism, commercial communications, translation. There are so many ways to make a living with words that don’t involve creating a best-selling book found in airport newstands. Keep practicing and don’t subject yourself to this side of the business until you’re ready.
Rejection is hard and can knock the best writers off course, wasting valuable years. I know because this happened to me. It’s very difficult to keep going as a writer sometimes. A gift for words doesn’t usually also include a thick skin.
My advice for young writers: Just keep doing it. Put your head down, read stuff you enjoy, disregard trends and young debut authors and time’s winged chariot and all that and JUST KEEP WRITING.