Sunday, May 20, 2012

So You Think Your Kid Can Write...

That's great!

Probably your child has already gotten good grades on English assignments. Maybe she or he has even won an award or had something published at school. And now here you are asking me, because I'm an author, what to do next.

Since we're both standing in a Barnes and Noble, since you have a couple of books under your arm, I can tell you already on the right track. Every good writer that I know is a voracious reader. So keeping your home well supplied with reading material is the best way to support your child's talents.

What else can you do?

1. Read quickly whatever he writes and give feedback. It's very hard to spend hours writing, more time revising, and then to watch your work linger until a reader "gets around to it." Be an enthusiastic and prompt audience!

2. Take your child to hear authors speak when they visit local libraries or bookstores. I had a young man who sat through my entire "How to Get Published" workshop because he wanted to ask me one burning question: "Would publishers even consider something written by a kid?" (I told him they wouldn't care about his age, but they would care about his ability.)

3. Sign your child up to attend a writers' conference. Note, that's a WRITERS' conference, not a fan conference. Find one where published authors critique work, offer skill building techniques, and so on. Ask the conference organizer if your child is old enough to attend. Often this is simply a matter of how mature your child is.

4. Encourage your child to take journalism classes. English classes are great, but for the nuts and bolts of good writing, you just can't beat journalism classes.

Now, for the tough question you've been waiting to ask me, "Should I publish my kid's work on Amazon?"

I can't answer that for you. There are pros and cons. If you make the bar for publication too low, what is your child learning? If you truly think the work has commercial value, that's great. But if you only want to "encourage" your son or daughter, I'd say, "Think again." If being an author is a long-term goal for your child, then self-publication is probably a shortcut.

And, yes, I've self-published some of my work...but before I did that, I graduated with a degree in journalism, worked for three newspapers, earned accreditation in public relations, and sold articles as a freelancer. I had a bit of an idea what constituted commercially viable work!


Barb Goffman said...

I'll add one more tip: look for creative writing classes that your child can take. Classes aimed at teens or younger kids would offer a supportive environment with other writers at the same level (age and experience).

Joanna Campbell Slan said...

Great idea, Barb!

Mollie Cox Bryan said...

Great post Joanna. I have two daughters who LOVE to write. I try to encourage them. My oldest daughter (13) is often working on novels. She has great ideas, but never seems to finish them. LOL. But I so agree with you on the journalism classes. Nuts and bolts--absolutely.

Betty Hechtman said...

Good advice.