Sorry to be a broken record on this topic, but I have to give thumbs up once again to the fantastic writers in the QRB teen writers group. They continually impress me, and I find myself leaving QRB in a good mood after each meeting. They make me want to be a better writer.
Last night each writer brought something to read. We had talked about creative nonfiction a couple of months ago, and one found she had a flair for it, after staunchly declaring that she didn't like the genre. Thus, she read her memoir about the day her little brother broke his arm. What I loved is how following the piece we talked not about the writing, but about our own accident-prone brothers, our broken bones stories, etc. I noted this, offering that, to quote the beloved, late Donald Murray yet again, "As we read someone else's story, we write our own."
Another had jotted an introductory paragraph -- that's it -- and wondered if it was intriguing enough to make the reader want more. It was! This time, what impressed me is how much planning she'd already put into the story w/out having it on the page yet -- in one day! It takes me weeks, months, years!! And the story was unique -- a Douglas Adams-kind of whimsical (then again, what do I know?).
And finally, our last writer came in w/ her notebook jammed w/ story after story after story, post-its and scraps of paper w/ scribbled notes, cross-outs and marginal notes and pages falling out, all this chaos making sense to her. I love it. Brings back memories. And yet, as I told them yet again (I was their broken record too), I was never so ambitious at their age. One of them is submitting her story for publication (I'm not even that ambitious now!). They look ahead. And my god, the amount of reading they do, and the kind of books they read -- also something I never did at that age (and it's the one thing I didn't achieve this summer -- for some reason, I've read very little). I was a creature of habit during my teens (still am, actually). I read the same books over and over. And I wrote very, very bad stories. Then again, I wrote them for me and showed no one. They write plays. They write novellas. They write themed short stories. They speak multiple languages. They build worlds.
All before the age of twenty.
Don't tell me America's youth is slacking. It's not all Guitar Hero and Grand Theft Auto and Louis Vitton and the IPhone. There's hope. There's definitely hope for the written word.