word craft


Student seeks advice

Dear AviA dif­fer­ent kind of fan letter:

“Dear Avi …

… now [I am] a fresh­man in col­lege and seek wis­dom. Any advice for an aspir­ing children’s nov­el­ist? My fam­i­ly had con­vinced me it was a bad idea to take cre­ative writ­ing class­es. So I default­ed on my plan B: busi­ness (which is dras­ti­cal­ly more mis­er­able than I had imag­ined.) Any words of any reply would be, beside mirac­u­lous, awe-induc­ing appreciated.”

I wrote back:

“Thanks for your let­ter. I am delight­ed you have read and enjoyed so many of my books. Pleased too, that you would like to become a children’s nov­el­ist. There is always room for more good writers.

“What­ev­er you choose to do, I hope you will fol­low your heart’s pas­sion because the writ­ing pro­fes­sion is a hard one, and requires a great deal of work. Rewards are some­what iffy. Nev­er­the­less, I am a writer who was not—by my family—encouraged to be a writer. It took many years of work to sup­port my own fam­i­ly and myself by writ­ing. That said there are those who have achieved high lev­els of suc­cess very much soon­er than I did.

“To become a writer requires first that you become a volu­mi­nous read­er … and stay a read­er. Write every day. Write what you enjoy read­ing. Rewrite con­stant­ly. Be with oth­er writ­ers. Exchange work and ideas. Since you are in col­lege, there may well be a writ­ing group or soci­ety. Be part of it. Per­haps there is a lit­er­ary jour­nal. Work for it. Sub­mit your work to it. Just know that there is a lot of crit­i­cism that comes to writ­ers. Painful, some­times, but try to learn from it. In addi­tion, yes, there is a busi­ness side to writ­ing that is good to know.

“I wish you much good and hard work—and a lit­tle good luck. Good luck nev­er hurts.

“Your fan,


4 thoughts on “Student seeks advice”

  1. A vi,
    Excel­lent advice. I wish I’d writ­ten it. And I sin­cere­ly wish some­one would have writ­ten that mes­sage to me when I was a col­lege fresh­man. I avoid­ed Eng­lish class­es like the plague.

  2. I’m also a Cre­ative Writ­ing and Busi­ness major so I under­stand where this Fresh­man is com­ing from. In my busi­ness class­es I like to get to know peo­ple for inspir­ing sto­ries and inter­est­ing tales. Eng­lish majors are great but allow­ing your­self to explore oth­er avenues expands your expe­ri­ences which you can draw on lat­er. With that said, it is impor­tant to fol­low your pas­sion and know oth­er peo­ple are always on your side if you just look.

  3. Gen­er­ous advice — espe­cial­ly at the end when you signed the let­ter with “your fan.” I hope this “kid” keeps in touch with you — dur­ing the chal­lenges and the suc­cess­es. You have earned a deep and wide fan-base, Avi, and this blog entry reminds me why you’re respect­ed, admired, and con­tact­ed for advice.


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