Last Sunday I took part in TEDxArcadia at a college in the Philadelphia suburbs, a long day with 18 live presenters alternating with videos of popular TED talks from other parts of the country. One was a 10-year-old girl who had already had several books published and was making a very strong argument against traditional publishers who "don't want to work with children." Probably she's a genius, and it may well be that her work is of the highest order.
Then in last Sunday's NY Times I read a front-page article about kids whose parents are paying hefty sums to have their children's stuff published as e-books. Apparently it helps their self-esteem. My own view, and it probably won't win me any friends here, is that this is no way to become a good writer. It also occurs to me that becoming a good writer may not be the goal at all. It's just to be a published writer; maybe even a writer read by someone other than your teacher.
I've always been worried about people who sign up for workshops and come with just one really burning question: "How do I get published?" Not how do I get more tension in this narrative, how do I make my characters more believable, how much description is too much, how do I make my dialogue better? And I never have a satisfactory answer.
I have a lot of friends who are writers--published writers, some more successful than others. I don't know any who have hit the jackpot on the first try (or the second, or the tenth). Years ago a friend who worked in another field called and asked for the name of my agent. "Why do you want that?" I asked.
"Because I'm writing a best-seller, and I need to get signed up right away." I told her I was glad to hear that and asked her how far along she was with the book. "First chapter," she said. I don't know if she ever made it to Chapter Two.
All my writer friends know that rejection is the norm, success is elusive, and becoming a writer is a lifetime job. Kids ought to know that, too.