The sincerest form of flattery

We all know – it’s imitation. And “like mother, like daughter.” My mini-me child has been announcing for some time that she’s writing a book. She has plenty of ideas, but only a few pages so far. I love that she is doing this. So why was I irritated when my husband looked up the youngest published author and proceeded to inform us of his iPhone research in great detail?

(According to the folks at Guinness, the Youngest Author of a Best-selling Book Series is Christopher Paolini. Penguin signed a 13-year-old, Jake Marcionette, to a two-book deal in 2013. My favorite would be Gordon Korman, who submitted a class assignment to Scholastic when he was twelve – and had it published, continuing on to be a long-term success.  You want more? Mental Floss has an entertaining article, though it’s a bit dated.)

OK, so excluding the fact that a quickie Google search on your iPhone isn’t the best way to conduct research, why was I annoyed? Because my daughter might achieve one of my goals before me? (Or even instead of me?) Because I hate being reminded of those wasted years where I could have been writing? Or because so many others have already succeeded at a younger age?

Irrelevant. All of those reasons are irrelevant. There will always be someone who is better, faster, more successful.

I’ll be thrilled if my daughter completes a novel – not to mention publishes it – before she’s a teenager. Thrilled for her, because she used that fantastic imagination to create a lasting piece of art. Thrilled for me, because I am the example that inspired her. Thrilled because she’ll be able to pay for her own college degree. 😉

I only have myself to blame that I wasn’t one of those authors who was famous before I was 23. I won an essay contest in 6th grade, had several pieces published in various student literary magazines, and was a teen columnist for my local newspaper. I wrote a novella in college as a summer project for my scholarship. I had plenty of opportunity to achieve my goal of becoming a published author. But I chose not to. I stopped writing; I spent my time on other interests and explored other avenues.

I’d like to think that I spent that time productively. I know that when I re-read that novella with an eye to revising it and rewriting it as a YA novel, I was able to understand immediately what my mentor that summer had been trying to tell me. (Note: do NOT write fiction while simultaneously studying Henry James. Not a good idea.) I could see what needed work and what had possibility. It’s still a project in hand.

I do like the fact that so many successful children’s authors are not in the first flush of youth. I’ve written about this several times, and I find it inspiring. (Along with Dear Genius, that lovely collection of Ursula Nordstrom’s letters. Quite good bedtime reading. Perhaps I’ll have such an editor one day.)

So I’m taking a deep breath  and getting back to work on my current project. If I’ve achieved so many of my other goals, I know I can achieve this one.



4 thoughts on “The sincerest form of flattery

  1. You are not alone in the waiting to make that writer’s dream come true. I knew at an early age I wanted to be a writer, but I veered from the path for many reasons. It wasn’t until I was in my 30s that I decided it was time to take writing seriously. I, too, often wonder about wasted years. But maybe the timing wasn’t right for me. Maybe I had to be older, and wiser before I could accomplish the goal of publishing.

    Either way, young or old, the important thing is we fulfill our passions and live our bliss. And that will be a story well told.

  2. Hmm, teen columnist, writing early on but choosing a different path for awhile? This sounds familiar! Am I doing what I thought I’d be doing when I was in college? No! And I’m not where I want to be with my “writing career” yet. But, ideas keep popping into my head, I’m compelled to write, and I’m passionate about stories and children. I hope that counts for something and leads us to the path we want to walk.

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