I was surrounded by an eclectic group, including a screenwriter who also considers himself a novelist, a personal essayist, and a newspaper editor. Across from me was a published author (several fantasy novels). She spoke of how great it felt to hear from kids who had read her books, or parents who were excited to try her work because their children loved it. One girl said she collected hardbacks and loves to see them lined up. None of them own e-readers.
A listening audience of 16 and 17 year-olds will hold a mirror up, that’s for sure. As they listened carefully, and I chatted away at super speed, what I saw in me was a gal full of self-publishing tips: someone eager to share what she’s learned lately about royalties and cover design, platforms and launch planning. In other words, I was all business.
I know this because I was also flanked by a young man who was curious but not “aspirational,” as he put it, when it came to writing. Yet he asked some great questions and stayed engaged the whole time. The personal essayist said she didn’t feel led to see her work published; she wrote for herself, for pleasure.
I can’t get either of these kids out of my mind, because they represent to me something I lose every day when I’m too much business. Whatever I do in this writing career, I must never lose the joy of writing. That “kid in a candy store” feel I had as a kid at age nine, writing pages and pages for any purpose, just because the spirit moved me–that little girl must stay strong inside.
When the young author shrugged that all her many books weren’t vetted by “real people,” I offered some thoughts about the demise of the Big Six (now the Big Four) getting replaced by The Crowd out there on the web, that can now tell you directly what The People want to read. But I wonder if I should have said, “No, no, no. Why did you write in the first place? For the supposed editors and agents and publishers–who I’ve left behind–or for you and your dreams? Whatever you do, don’t lose that muse, that passion, that vaulting ambition to put your words out there. At the end of the day, that is what we have, for sure. Nothing else is guaranteed.”
Even if years from now she views her earliest efforts as dross and nothing like what she can do now, she knows how important it is to finish what you start and stay committed to an idea, a character, a story. I wouldn’t be a self-publishing author if I didn’t have this drive.
Kids in a candy store have two missions: get massive quantities, and go for the sugar high. Writing has always been a grab fest, gulping down great words, addictive, and energizing. A rollercoaster charging down the hill, guaranteed to get you happy.