Friday, March 25, 2011

Readers Today, Writers Tomorrow

I spent a wonderful evening a few days ago with a group of high school students.  They were all members of a high school chapter of the National English Honor Society.  They invited me to speak about my writing process and the path I took to publication. I doubt any speaker ever had a more polite and attentive audience.

Every gaze was on me the entire time as if every word I said had meaning and each phrase I spoke was inspirational.  It was a real feel-good time.  They smiled and nodded in agreement when I referenced certain novels.  They laughed when I gave examples of working with different editors and my frustrations with one of them.

They raised their eyebrows in disbelief when I explained how long it might be from submission to actual acceptance and publication of a manuscript.  They shook their heads in amazement when I explained reserves against returns and the tiny amounts of money most writers manage to earn on their hours, days and years of work. 

They asked intelligent questions as did their instructors. The entire incident made me wonder if I would have started writing earlier if I had had the opportunity to meet a real author when I was young and deciding on a career choice in high school.  I read endlessly my entire life but when I was a teenager, the authors of my favorite books were distant shadows, not even real people.  Never once did I consider how much work they did for those wonderful novels to end up in my hands.  

I've already been asked by another English teacher to do a guest spot in her classroom about the editing process.  Will I inspire one or more of them to give this wonderful, roller coaster career a try?  Did speaking to them advance my career in any way? Maybe a few of them will buy my book but mostly I received only the pleasant jolt of being appreciated. 

Have you given talks about writing to young people?  Do you know if your local schools have programs like the one I mentioned?  Have you reached out to young readers and writers in some way?


  1. Sounds like you had a wonderful experience. You'd think, once you told them about how little most authors made, some would rethink their dream of becoming a writer. Reality rarely measures up to the dream.

  2. I've only given such talks in my classroom once the social studies teacher let out of the bag that I was a writer. They had the similar disbelief reaction to me.

    Glad you had such a great evening with them!

  3. It was lots of fun and inspiring to me.

  4. Very cool that it was. I dunno who is going to be Steve if they really make a new show. Either way, it's unlikely that I'll watch it.

    Finished with supper. Now onto the dishes ...

  5. wow, what an amazing and positive experience. I've not done any talks specifically for young people.

  6. It's wonderful what you do for the students. Yes, I never heard a "real" writer speak to me directly, but I always loved books, and my school teachers were always encouraging. Of course, like these students, I didn't know the time, effort, and usually small remuneration that comes from writing and publishing. But there's that great satisfaction.

    If I were free to do what you're doing, I would.

    Sci-fi Fantasy isn't my favorite genre, but I'm going to take a look at your book. Thanks for coming over and commenting on my blog, since that brought me here!

  7. How great that you could offer this to young people. It's also good for them to hear some actual facts about being a writer. When I was young, I imagined all writers lived a Hemingway/Fitzgerald life, sunning on the Riviera or chatting in Paris cafes between writing great books. TV shows like Castle, although it's great fun, perpetuate that myth.

    I don't know how I would have felt if I could have met my idols like Mary Stewart in real life. You're right that she was a shadowy entity--almost a mythological figure to me.

  8. That was an awesome opportunity, Sue! I'm so glad you had such a good time.

    My only experience like that was giving my kick-butt heroine presentation to our writer's group and the Valley Forge chapter. It was fun!