One of my favorite discoveries at Aspen Summer Words (ASW) was the workshop offered to young writers ages 14-18. I had the privilege of meeting one of the participants (I’ll call her Ms. M) at breakfast the first morning and she—along with several of my fellow workshop attendees as well as a smattering of poets and novelists—became a regular part of my mornings.
Ms. M is 15 and had just completed a novel she started when she was around 12, maybe 13. She claimed to have no social life and so she wrote all the time. Intelligent and motivated, she spoke about how much her writing has grown and, yes, improved over the years. She loved the program and clearly took it very seriously. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see her the last morning, but I had wanted to ask her what she learned, what she was working on next.
Rumor had it that one of Ms. M’s fellow young writers sold a novel during a consultation with an agent at ASW. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if Ms. M sells hers.
When I was Ms. M’s age, I didn’t have much of a social life and I wrote. But I kept my scribbles and handwritten scenes hidden. It would have never occurred to me that I could spend my summer learning about the craft of writing from published authors. (Of course, it was Texas, and anything outside of sports was hard to find.) My writing pursuits in journalism were supported and encouraged. It just never occurred to my family or me that writing could lead to rent-paying work.
Although I didn’t know my maternal grandfather very well, I knew he wrote and I even performed one of his prose pieces in a speech competition. Just recently, I re-read a letter he wrote me when I was 18, sharing his writing advice. He referred to himself as an “unsuccessful, frustrated writer” and then suggested, “If you stay away from creative writing you will probably live a much less complex life. Maybe not as interesting…but certainly less tormenting.”
Of course, creative writing is what I’ve grown to love most. I couldn’t have told you that at 15, or 18 or even 25. So, when I got a message from a young writer earlier this week, I was honored that she invited me to check out her new blog, her first blog, where’s she posting her creative work. You inspire me—and, yes, that means you, Lauren.
And to those posting their prose and poetry at The Young Writer Revolt, keep it up. It amazes me that you’re so determined, focused and active with your writing. It took me until I was 30. Don’t let school or graduation or the pressure of bills and rent keep you from writing. Every time I read your work, I’ll remind myself of that very advice.