Thursday, May 20, 2010

16-year-old failure gets published

by Jim
Galleycat directed me to this blog post from a 16-year-old debut author.

Published at 16. Must feel amazing, right? Well, not necessarily. She offers this: “I'm 16. I got a book deal when I was 15. There are authors that were published at 13 and 14 and I always find myself thinking, God, must I fail at everything I do? They were published younger than me!”

I love this girl. Not only does she have an incredibly rational and professional approach to the publishing process, she’s also the kind of crazily motivated go-getter that I find equally unnerving and inspiring.

So sure, it’s easy to say that getting published isn’t a race when you’re 16, but the facts hold true: there is plenty of time to become a published writer. Even if you ARE already above the legal drinking age.


  1. Wow, I can't even imagine what it would be like to get published at 16! (Or 13 or 14 for that matter...)

    If this girl thinks she's a failure, then I don't even want to think about what that makes me. :o)

  2. Writer Girl20/5/10 6:28 PM

    :( stories like that are depressing.

  3. Yikes! when did our kids get like that?

  4. I love her attitude, her optimism and her capacity to be so professional. To borrow your word, Jim, it's actually a little unnerving, though great! I can only hope that one day I, six years older than she is, will achieve that kind of professionalism!

  5. I don't see anything positive in that kind of ultra-competitive, self-critical attitude. "I'm a failure because somebody, somewhere might have been there first! I have to be the best at everything or I'm nothing!!!" People like this keep doctors (especially shrinks) in business.

    The poor child was probably toilet trained at 2 months and made to memorise French verb forms in the womb.

  6. I think to judge yourself harshly is only natural and many of us do it; what I like about her is that she acknowledges that she shouldn't be thinking this way and optimistically pushes past it, which is very mature and so nice to read!

  7. Crud! Here I was thinking that being published before I turn 35 would be a pretty nice accomplishment. *hangs head in shame*

  8. Well we can't really tell whether this girl was joking around or actually serious, but I didn't get the feel-good vibe from this either. Especially since a lot of teenagers either feel pressured to meet high expectations, or are pressured by parents to meet high expectations. So yeah, I agree with Anne and others, I don't see anything positive or motivational about what this girl said. There's judging yourself harshly, and saying 'I must fail at everything!'. I hope at least that she was kidding, but still. Unnecessarily negative.

  9. I heard about Steph about a year ago, back when I still felt like hot shit for selling BREAK when I was 17. I'm 19 now and already feel old. They're always on your tail...

  10. bitter and twisted21/5/10 5:51 AM

    I make no judgement here as I have not read this girl's book or the article about her, but the cynic in me raises a question.

    Is this girls book really that good that it deserves publishing or is an o-kay book that a publisher sees a money making opportunity in by using her young age as a tool to maximise publicity?

    I hope it is a good book and I hope this young girl goes on to write many great books, because the more genuinely good books that reach the public the better the industry will be.
    However if this is a case of publishing an author before she is ready, then it will be another case of the industry shooting itself in the foot.

    Every publisher and agent has a responsibility to the long term good of the industry and not just to the short term cash-flow to their own pocket. Any book published, especially one by a very young author or aimed a young audience will have a number of readers for whom this will be their first independent venture into book reading. If the book is not of a quality that fully captivates, and exposes the joy of reading, then it may well be that reader will invest future leisure time and money in game-boy rather that a book.

    If the first book you read was a bad book, would you ever have read another book?

  11. I'm the one who "discovered" Steph by reading her blog and then beta-reading her manuscript and directing her to some agents I knew - as I read her manuscript I got a little chill, because I knew I'd stumbled across a rare talent and a writer who was going to go far. Yes, it is a good book, with a wonderfully distinctive and fresh voice, and the agents who offered representation did it in spite of her age, not because of it.

    Steph is one of the most professional writers I know, with a wonderfully mature and sensible attitude - of course there are pitfalls of entering the publishing world at 15, and she's aware of them. I can also guarantee you that neither her parents or anyone else has pressured her to do this - her parents are not writers or devout readers and seem delightfully low-key (last I heard, her mother hadn't even read the book) and a bit surprised by all the fuss. Her gran reads her blog and chats with her on the phone about it. That's it.

    She's a writer - she's a teen. Of course she's sometimes filled with self-doubt and is occasionally self-deprecating, albeit often tongue-in-cheek. Guarantee you every writer feels this way at times.

    Steph loves to write; she started an engaging blog; she wrote a book; she asked for beta-readers. I asked if she was interested in considering US agents, and she ran with it. I offered some long-distance email advice along the way, as a few other internet writer friends did, but her success is self-made, self-motivated, and well deserved.

    And I can't wait to read her next book.

  12. good for her! Great attitude and it speaks volumes that she hasn't let anything go to her ego.

  13. I think it's great that she is published at 16 and her book sounds fantastic.
    However I find it disturbing that lots of teens out there are depressed because they haven't been published by the time they are legal. I mean, really? (Not knocking anybody's dream because anything is possible). But this makes me think of child actors wanting million dollar contracts by the time they are 18 and teen models expecting to be a supermodel right-now! Great to be ambitious - at any age - but to be comparing yourself to others or wanting to be the first successful something is not healthy.

  14. That's terrific to be at that point at 16.

  15. When I consider the writing of most 13-year-olds (including myself at that age), this is an incredible achievement. But however impressive it is, I don't think it's sour grapes to feel that getting published has got to mean more to someone over 30, especially if they've been whacking away at the coal face for years.

    At the rate I'm going, maybe I'll have a shot at being the oldest writer published.

  16. bitter and twisted22/5/10 9:49 AM

    Well' I think Sara J. Henry has answered the cynic that dwells within me and I'm very glad to hear that answer.
    It is always good to hear of any worthy book reaching the bookstore shelves as so many that are worthy do not and so many that are not, do.

  17. I will admit to being ever-so-slightly chagrined that Steph is beating me into print (my novel doesn't come out until February) - although I got my deal first! And, uh, I'm a heckuva lot older than 15.

  18. I cringed at the excerpt you quoted (and wondered how on earth anyone could find that kind of super-competitive all-or-nothing attitude "mature" or "optimistic") until I went to the actual post.

    For others - the quote is taken out of context, where her actual point is that everyone always feels they could have done better, but that's no reason to discount your own achievements. Read the rest of her post; she's a surprising teen.

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