I love when I get letters like this one:
Please help. I have a third/fifth/tenth grade kid/daughter/son/niece/nephew/grandson/neighbor, and I think he/she is a writer. I want to support and encourage him/her in this newfound love. What can you suggest to me, other than buying lots of notebooks and pens?
A Writer's Cheerleader
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The teacher/parent/writer/reader in me absolutely delights in letters like this one. There are few things better than the next generation falling in love with the pen on the page.
Yes, I would first of all suggest this: Keep her stocked with notebooks and fun pens. This is a solid start, and without these, even the best writers can stall before they leave the gate. Start with a collection of great tools.
Next, I would also say this: Read everything your writer lets you read. My mom was my first reader, she has never turned down anything I put in her hands, and she continues to be the first person to read my essays and chapters before I send them to my editors and publishers. Writers need readers. When you have someone who's waiting to see what you've written, then you want to keep writing. Be her best reader.
If she gets stuck, offer her a writing prompt. Say, "Tell me about a friend at school." Or "Tell me what you remember about your best vacation." The important thing is "Tell me." It's a gentle nudge, and it presents her with someone - in this case YOU - that she's writing to. It gives her writing a direction. Because, like I said, writers need readers.
Call him a Writer. Be very generous with this word.
This is the curious thing about writing: you have to claim that role for yourself before anybody will ever pay you to become one. You have to go through a lot of hours in the chair, pages in the notebook, and heaps of ideas before anybody will say, "You know who we need for this? A writer. And I know just who we need." So use the word to give roots to the dream. If you can give this gift to your writer, you may have set him on the path of his calling.
And if you're looking for a Christmas gift for an aspiring writer, I recommend any from the series of books called 642 Things to Write About. If your writer is a grownup, then they should read Bird by Bird (Anne Lamott) and Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within (Natalie Goldberg). Please go ahead and one-click these into your Amazon cart. They are the seeds of greatness.
Above all else, writers need readers. Be a kind one.
Tricia, I love your writing...I know you are very particular about your writing...I’m wondering why your first two suggestions referred to “her” and the last one referred to “him”. I know you believe both can be writers, just wondering if there was any meaning or purpose behind that. Thanks!
Casey, thank you for your question. I chose to alternate between the pronouns to include both boys and girls, men and women. 🙂
Amen to all this, young or old aspiring writers! I always tell people who are putting things on paper but are not confident, "Write. No one else can tell YOUR story." I am always reading work from writers of every level of skill, and even the most poorly written pieces have some amazing gems, the roots of THEIR story. Who am I to discourage those who are where I once was?