Yesterday, I Skyped with Fuente Collective, a Houston-based writing center for both young and adult writers, to talk about Hunger Mountain and debunk the mysterious world of submitting creative work, but mostly my aim was to emphasize the importance of literary citizenship and how young writers can start being active in their own literary communities now. The talk went really well! The 14-to 18-year-olds are in such a great space, what with the support and generosity of their instructors Layla Al-Bedawi and Tayyba Kanwal, and the opportunities for writing and growth that FuenteCo provides. I’m very excited to work with Fuente again in the future!
In preparation for the talk, I put together a tear sheet for the group, including a brief overview of Hunger Mountain, and information about our current submission call.
Also included on that tear sheet were a few “words of encouraging advice” that I collected from my fellow students and a few of the professionals I’ve had the pleasure to work with. The blurbs I received back ranged in topic from encouragement to follow one’s passion, tips for the act of writing itself, engaging in the literary community, and advice on how to send out work and get published. I think these words of wisdom are great reminders to keep us on our heart’s path, no matter your age or years of experience. I know I will print these words out and paste them on my wall above my writing desk.
Enjoy these heartfelt blurbs below. Let them inspire you, speak to you, and stir up your creative juices:
Encouraging Advice from VCFA Students and Faculty:
Everything I’ve ever learned about writing came from my mother and my father. My father taught me that nothing beats working hard. And that is exactly true with creative writing. The only way to be a successful writer is to make writing something that you do often and ferociously. But you cannot just work hard and become a great writer, and this is where my mother’s advice comes in. My mother taught me to be passionate about what I do. And for a writer to be great, they need to not only work hard but also love to work hard. They need to love the act of writing, the act of thinking about writing, the act of revising, the act of sending work out into the world. So write hard and love writing hard. ~ Sean Prentiss, author of Finding Abbey
Someone told this to me when I was young: Keep writing and always believe in the wilds of your imagination. ~ Kayleigh Marinelli, VCFA student
Don’t procrastinate. If you want to be a better writer, read carefully and pay attention to what others do and how they do it. Ask questions. Go to classes. Write as often as possible. Play with words. Enjoy telling stories. Find out as much as you can, read widely. And yes, don’t put it off for another day or year, but claim it now. ~ Sarah Leamy, VCFA student
Don’t wait for inspiration to write. Simply write regularly and often. Sometimes, the work will fall apart. Sometimes it will come together and surprise you. It’s not so simple as “journey over destination” or “practice over product…” nor is the point of writing in the finished product alone. The point is that you weave writing into your life and let it become your inspiration. And do this with your reading to. Read. Read. Read. And keep reading. ~ Lizzy Fox, Associate Director of the MFA in Writing and Publishing program
There are two things that every writer needs: willingness and a community. Willingness is the ability to just make yourself start writing: even if you’re not feeling it, even if you think you’ve somehow lost any talent you might have once had, even if you’ve convinced yourself that your current work-in-progress is a worthless dog’s breakfast. You may need to fill a page with nonsense before you start to flow, but flow you will. The other thing you need is a community. We can get lost inside the hard bone casques of our skulls, and having trusted friends around keeps us grounded. When one of us is doing well, it gives the rest of us encouragement to push on. When one is having a hard time, there’s probably at least one other of us who just finished a story, or solved a vexing plot puzzle, or at least just learned a great new macadamia-nut cookie recipe. Find a crew. For writers, who are often temperamentally a solitary lot, this can be the biggest challenge. But it always, ALWAYS pays off. ~ Paul Daniel Ash, VCFA student
You are not alone. There are billions of people in the world and some of them need to hear your story, and this will only happen if you tell it. ~ Valentyn Smith, VCFA student