This is the letter I wrote to the 10-year-old girl, an aspiring writer, after she gave me the only copy of her 22-page handwritten book to review and I lost it.
I had her father read it first. I thought there was a chance he’d hit me. Instead, he got choked up and shook my hand.
I gotta be honest: I gave a lot of serious thought to trying to lie my way out of this one …
When your father asked if I’d be willing to read something you’d written, I didn’t hesitate. I’m more than happy to encourage young writers like yourself to pursue the kind of life I’ve been lucky enough to have lived.. I’ve been writing for 40 years and I still tingle with satisfaction knowing I’ve crafted a sentence that people will want to re-read because t made them laugh or think.
He gave me the draft of the book you started — in one night — on Wednesday. On Thursday I did something wise followed by something unbelievably stupid. First the wisdom.
I teach creative writing at Point Park U. I told my students that I’d begun a new book and I began to read them what you’d written. I read them two pages and asked what they thought. One student said it was “imaginative.” One said the writing was “well-paced.” Two said for me to keep reading. They wanted class turned into story time. Then I confessed I’d lied. I told them the writer was the 10-year-old daughter of a Ligonier friend. And they were amazed. One said you must be a prodigy. I said that’s the perfect word to describe what you’re doing.
Now for the stupid. I don’t know if you can forgive me but I lost what you put so much heart into. I have no excuse. The class is 3 hours long and leads to a sprawl of papers, but I should be more careful with something so precious. You can be furious with me. I deserve it.
But I’m going to urge you to do something else. I’m going to urge you to take three deep breaths (through the nose!). And do it all over again. The best writers aren’t really writers at all. They’re re-writers. A first draft can be a frolic. Very loose. Almost stream of conscious. I’m not saying yours was, but a rigorous re-write shines with a discipline that demands respect
So you can curse me — I’d start with that — but I recommend you learn from this and add it as another rung on the ladder to success I’m sure you’ll ascend. Lastly, make copies of EVERY THING. It’s a lesson every writer learns. It was just my incompetence that gave you a particularly vivid lesson at an early age.
Post a Comment