I was a child writer, once.
At eleven, after saving up money from odd jobs done for neighbors, I paid for and attended a children’s writing workshop. I’d thought it was a workshop for child writers; to my surprise, it was a workshop for writers of children’s literature!
The adult writers thought it was so cute that I was there, but the mistake didn’t faze me — I considered myself a “serious writer”, and I learned so much that day. There were agents in attendance who were extra kind and encouraging, who praised my iniative and advised me to keep writing — that, one day, I’d get there.
I was there to learn, not to pitch my manuscript, although I had a finished one at that point in time. While it’s different for everyone, I wasn’t close to (emotionally) ready for the harsh realities of Query Road.
Which brings me to my point: lately I’ve noticed, while frequenting writers’ blogs and groups, some extremely young writers pushing for publication, or for publication before *insert very young magic age here*.
While there are some amazing younger writers, statistically there are few writing prodigies for a reason: it often takes emotional seasoning and years of life experience to write a novel that resonates with a broad audience.
Most readers won’t think a book is special because the writer is under eighteen; most of us don’t consider a writer’s age when we read a novel. A book is special when the writing is special, when it touches something inside us or opens our hearts and minds to new worlds, or new ways of thinking and being.
There’s no magic age when it comes to publishing, and no shortcuts; being young doesn’t earn a writer special treatment, nor with a ready manuscript should it bar a young writer from representation. Talent develops at different paces — for example, S.E. Hinton was fifteen when she began writing The Outsiders, and eighteen when the novel was published. Frank McCourt published his debut novel, Angela’s Ashes, at the age of sixty-six.
I happen to believe that’s the best part of being a writer — how, no matter ones age, race, gender, height, weight, appearance, we all have a shot — when the writing is ready — and that’s the trick: that there are no tricks, only solid writing, belief in the dream, and practice, practice, practice.