Right now, I have the privilege of knowing a brilliant and awesome ten-year-old girl.  Currently buried between the desire to model and be a fashion designer, she would like to write.  She asked me recently, “Will you give me writing lessons?”  She was willing to pay a hefty five dollars per lesson.  Granted at this point…I could use the income.  However, as I told her I’d be more than happy to critique her work (free of charge) I couldn’t help but ask myself, “Jess…how the hell DO you teach someone to write?”

        I sincerely have no idea how I manage any of this.  You may be a naturally gifted author, but I’m not sure if I’d lump myself in that category.  I never went to school for writing (as I’m sure many of my editors will attest to.)  However, here are a few things I’ve observed on this winding road of witticisms and prose. I may be wrong, I may be clueless, but for me it works.

        First, you must try.  That is lesson number one.  It seems the easiest task, but I assure you it isn’t.  To face a blank piece of paper can sometimes feel like facing a firing squad.  Yet it has to happen, before you can find out where your gifts lie you must pursue them.  You may fail, you may not, but you must TRY.

        Lesson number two: when you’re not writing, read something.  No, it doesn’t have to be an American Classic.  Read what makes you happy or intrigued or knowledgeable about the world (even if your greatest wish is to escape it.)

        Lesson number three: and this one is a toughie.  When you feel your soul has purged upon the page a story of value and importance you must share it.  Some people will pat your head and say it’s lovely.  Some people will hate it with a passion you can’t quite understand.  You must search for the person who takes you by the hand and says, “I like certain things, and dislike other’s…do you want to know why?”  They aren’t placating you or tearing you down, in fact those people are the nutrients that will help you grow.

        Lesson four: fall in love with your story, whether it is about purple people eaters, a group of friends living in Chicago, or a narrative about your childhood.  Love your words and believe in what you have to say.  If you don’t believe in it 100%, how can you expect others to?  Anyone with a computer can string together some words.  I’d advise you to always dream bigger.  Create a story, a legacy that will far outlive you, and perhaps even the world you currently know.

        No one can teach you to write.  Like no one can take an afternoon and teach you ballet or how to make the perfect soufflé.  In all instances, things will likely fall on the first try.  You will sit amongst the heap of your dream and doubt everything you’ve done.  You’ll wonder why you picked up the pen at all.

        On those days, pick up a book instead.  Remember being young and feeling as though you could run your hand through Aslan’s mane.  The summertime days you spent reading under a tree.  The nights you spoke to the moon, and you swear it spoke back.

        Remember the enchantment that can be found in a book.  Relish it, take a deep breath, and pick your pencil back up.  Create magic for the next generation.

        We owe it to them.

Melissa
8/27/2013 06:58:20

I think I might know this 10 year old you speak of! I think it's amazing that she looks up to you so much that she wants to share one of her favorite things to do, write and create stories with you. You have inspired her. She loves to tell people, "My friend Jess Fortunato is an author do you know her stories? She then TELLS them that they should read your books. Being able to to teach someone to write may not be an easy task or even possible, but you have and continue to give her and others someone that is sincerely interested, willing to listen and provide feedback. And that my dear Jess, is what makes you so awesome!

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Auntie Em
9/23/2013 14:15:24

Even in this message, your soul comes thru. I must add, it seems a beautiful soul. Thank you for picking up your pen again.

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