Today I want to talk about an opportunity as a writer that usually doesn’t happen to me that often. I was recently invited to speak to a delightful group of young writers at Mercersburg Academy’s Young Writers Camp summer program in Mercersburg, PA and host a book signing with them. It was a large group this year (about 37 kids not including instructors and camp counselors) and let me tell you, they were fired up and ready to learn about the publication process!
So I told them. For a good hour and a half we covered everything from writing a book to seeking out an agent, to what the next steps were once you actually sign the contract for publication, ending it with a book signing of my debut, The Bone Roses. I told them about building a brand for their work through social media and about the long road often full of rejection. I was honest with these children about the process as my journey to publication was far from easy and didn’t happen overnight. They seemed to appreciate the honesty and asked some amazingly impressive questions such as “how do I know an agent is a good fit for my work” and “what all is involved with publication once you’re offered a contract?”
The signing part was fun too. It was my first book signing so I didn’t know what exactly to expect, but after a while I figured it out. To say it was emotional is an understatement. Getting to interact with the kids and sign copies of my book made it all the more real for me as an author that this was really happening. I was a real, published author. The kids were fantastic and fun to talk to as they asked questions about my book and me as an author.
It always makes me so happy to see young people involved in the writing process and fostering a love for the craft early in life. We had everything in this group from fantasy writers to poets to even some non-fiction writers and so much more. Each one had that spark of passion for their craft and that was refreshing to see. It reminded me of when I was a kid with that longing to be a writer like my heroes in the literary world. In a way, it was like talking to a younger version of myself and I think that helped my own confidence a bit in presenting some of the harsher realities of the publication world to these kids such as how to approach rejection.
Writing is a labor of love. It’s harsh, it can be heartbreaking at times, it can also be extremely rewarding. Like learning how to dance with the words, the more you do it, the better you become at it and soon you are gliding across the dance floor with your work. These kids were at this camp to learn how to take those first steps into the dance and it is my sincere hope that I was able to lead them a little bit into what to expect as their journey starts to unfold. Of course, every journey is different and everyone goes at their own pace, but being invited to share my story with these kids was a wonderful experience I won’t soon forget.
- Kathryn Lee Martin