1. delisma
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    delisma New Member

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    guiding a kid who wants to write

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by delisma, Mar 19, 2011.

    I just joined this site to ask a question to a group of writers.

    My daughter is heading into high school and has for as long as I can remember said that she wants to be a writer when she grows up. She spends almost all of her free time writing, wrote her first "novel" ;) in second grade and at this point has written 6 more, as well as untold number of short stories. She has won several school district and state contests, I'm her mom so of course this is biased, but I think she's really good. But aside from whether she's talented or not, she is undeniably passionate about it. It is truly what she loves.

    So far, it's just been something that she enjoys without any further thought. But the schools are starting to do career counseling and telling the kids they should start finding out more about colleges and which colleges match their interests. And it's recently started to occur to me that I have no idea what kind of guidance to give as we start looking toward college. Both her dad and I are engineers and that influenced our educations. She's a bright kid who does well in all her classes, and I must admit my bias is to focusing on a more practical career direction and let her write in her spare time. But I don't know. If she was a kid who just enjoyed writing, that would be one thing. But she's been so passionate and sure about it her whole childhood.

    So obviously she (and we as the people footing the college bill) have years before she has to decide anything concrete about appropriate schools or majors, but just wondered if anyone had any thoughts.
     
  2. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    I am a writer by accident so I may be giving bad advice.

    I did archaeology and history at university, also studied several sciences some law and psychology. I have to say having a wide and varied education has helped my story telling ability greatly. I particularly value the archaelogy and the ideas of telling a story in layers etc

    I am toying with taking Creative Writing as my basic English skills are reasonable but have a long way to go. However I am glad when i sit down to write a story that I didn't just do that.

    Another possibility might be to not go to college straightaway and to take a part-time job living with Mum and Dad to give her time to write and maybe take some night classes.
     
  3. The Degenerate
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    The Degenerate Active Member

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    In the end, it's her education, not yours. You should be 100% supportive of whatever it is she wants to study, lest you end up one of her least favorable characters in her stories.
     
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  4. Trish
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    Trish I've been deleted.. again Contributor

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    Passion is important and may very well take her far. I think a childs education should be up to them. I just want my kids happy. They don't have to have millions, or brand new cars, just happiness. If being a doughnut maker is what makes my kid happy, I'll help him be the best doughnut maker the world has ever seen.

    At the moment he wants to be an architect, and my daughter a singer. I'll support them both until they change their minds and then I'll support them in their new endeavor.
     
  5. delisma
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    delisma New Member

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    Ha. Good point. Of course however she chooses to spend her time as an adult is entirely her decision and we will love and support her no matter what she decides to do or not do. The question mostly came about as I realized how uneducated I am about the whole field. If she was passionate about astrophysics, say, I'd have some ideas about schools it would be fun for her to visit, math classes she would want to make sure she wasn't shut out of in high school. Ideas about the range of ways she could imagine the future careers shaping up. That sort of thing.

    Though reading your mail I realized that I'm not a 100% convinced that we shouldn't have some sort of "consulting role" on the college end. We're talking about a significant amount of money. We've been diligent about saving and want to launch our kids so that they won't have debt when they do graduate, but is 18 old enough to completely decide where and how to spend $100,000+ without any sort of input? If she decided not to go to school at all, we'd be disappointed but as you say, it would be her decision. If she does decide to have us pay for her education though, I'm pretty sure we're the kind of parents who will ask for a responsible use of that money.

    But of course that is always one of the challenges of parenting, the constant and continual process of letting go, figuring out the timing of how much to guide and how much to get out of the way can be pretty tricky. It looks a lot different at 5 and 12, I can only imagine what it will look like at 18. As far as an evil character, we joke about that all the time, "It's fodder for your stories ..." She'll even break into third person description about what's going on sometimes, it can be pretty funny. :)
     
  6. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    This. A million times, this.

    I may not give a damn about football, but if I had a son that loved the sport and wanted to be a professional football player, then by God I shall make every endeavor to support him, go out on in the highschool/college games he plays in, and throw a football with him. We'd even watch football games together, even though I'll likely doze off. XD

    That's the point of being a parent. You should support the child, even if the child wants to do something you have no interest in. (My parents don't give a crap about videogames, yet they let me play games, even go to buy new games/systems when they come out.)

    The mark of a successful parent is that your child becomes a friend you can rely on.
     
  7. w176
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    w176 Contributing Member Contributor

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    It can ten years or longer breaking into the market as a writer even if you are very good. After that it will probably be a bunch more years before she can quit her day job and become a full time writer. Having a nice job during thous years will support her writing ambitions, compared to having a lousy job.

    Any education is good for her writing to. No matter what education she chooses it will make her a better writer. Whatever subjects she picks she will learn a lot of things that will improve her writing, or go into her writing.

    If she want to take a course of creative writing when she at collage, that will probably be possible no matter what her main subjects are. Just be aware that it can be hard finding good creative writers courses, especially if you already written a lot, since many of the courses are aimed at beginner level writers.

    I would give her the advice to pick an education that give her a way to support herself until she can quit her day job, but also an education that will support her writing ambitions and that she will enjoy.

    Exactly what will support her writing ambitions depends on what sort of writing she want to do. Writers come from all walks of life. If she want to write science fiction becoming an engineer isn't a bad choice, is she aiming to write for children or young adults perhaps the should consider becoming a teacher, if she want to write crime novels a law degree might fit her needs,,,
     
  8. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    I concur. I'd recommend you'd tell her that its a good idea to keep the day job even when the books are being published. It makes perfect economic sense as either way, money's flowing into your wallet.
     
  9. Leftwing
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    Leftwing Member

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    I cannot speak for myself considering I am at the phase in my education where I have to make the choice of what university/college I want to go to, however my sister has already gone through post-secondary education twice, and I think what she says has some merit.

    My sister went to York University here in Ontario, where she double majored in English and History. Her initial intention was to go to Laurier University for a law program, however when it came time to make the decision she decided it would be best to remain close to home.

    After four years she graduated, took a year and worked part time. She considered going to teachers college but she isn't a big fan of kids, and being a historian isn't a viable option (her words).

    After a year she went to college for an advanced Law Clerk course (a full year instead of 3 years). My parents say if anyone would write a book it would be her, but the closest she came was fan fiction for Sailor Moon when she was twelve.

    I guess the best thing would be to let her choose. If her school is anything like mine she will be doing research on different programs offered at different universities. I know I love writing but I don't plan on going to University for it, to me it's more a hobby than a potential future career.
     
  10. delisma
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    delisma New Member

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    Thanks. That was very helpful.
     
  11. Trilby
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    Trilby Contributing Member Contributor

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    I agree with w176
    Encourage her writing in any way you can, but I think writing is a bit like singing/acting a lot of people that are good at it don't always make it. Therefore I would suggest she have a back-up career to fall back on.
     
  12. Silver_Dragon
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    Silver_Dragon Senior Member

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    I strongly agree. I also think having a career separate from writing can feed your stories, by giving you valuable experience. It goes back to what Elgaisma said about Archaeology classes and writing.

    I am not that interested in writing novels for a living, as I feel I work too slowly to produce enough material to sustain myself financially without a day job (even if I were to get published).
     
  13. hiddennovelist
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    hiddennovelist Contributing Member Contributor

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    It's so weird for me when people's parents pay for their college...my parents were very much the "you can find a way to fund college or just not go" type people, so if I hadn't gotten scholarships, I just wouldn't have a degree...

    But that's off topic.

    The nice thing about being a writer is that it's not like you have to have a degree in creative writing to do it. If she really, really wants to get a degree related to writing, I would support her, but if there are other areas she's interested in, I would encourage her to go for that and then just take creative writing classes as electives. That, in my opinion, is having the best of both worlds. She has something else she can fall back on if she doesn't become the next JK Rowling, but she still gets to learn about writing and do something she enjoys.
     
  14. bekajoi
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    bekajoi Senior Member

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    As far as good colleges go, for a degree in writing (to help her better herself, learn about the industry, and generally get some experience, I'd personally recommend Colombia College Chicago. They have an awesome Fiction Writing program, the other classes like math and science will directly relate to her major there, so it will keep every other little class interesting as well. I really like their approach and wish I had been able to actually attend there myself.

    To find out more, just search for Colombia College Chicago, and Fiction Writing, and you'll find more information about them. The main campus is really close to the big downtown library, too, which makes for excellent killing of time while waiting for classes to start.

    I would not personally worry so much about killing her dream of writing by focusing so heavily on how hard it is. I think most people are aware that this kind of thing, even if you are well liked and well known, is difficult and likely won't pay the bills very well. But there are plenty of other things that will...

    So, if she wants a school to go to, the school I mentioned above was one of the best schools in the country with a focus on Fiction Writing, and they have pioneered some proven methods for teaching the subject... If she wants to go to school for writing, I'd lean toward one that knows what they are doing and are more geared toward the type of writing she's interested in. I'd lean toward a school like THAT over your average university's three course blip in Creative Writing. She'll get a lot more out of a more highly focused school.

    And there's nothing that says she can't take classes there for a while to hone her craft and transfer to a school with another focus as well, later. She could have a degree in Fiction Writing and follow it up with something else she loves, too. Double majors, in cases like these, are not a terrible thing.

    That being said, my parents were 100% in support of my desire to write and go to school for writing. If they had started telling me writers don't make very much money or it will be incredibly hard for anyone to look at your work, let alone take you seriously, I'd have gone to that school anyway, and stopped talking with them about it.

    Personally, I think it is amazing that you have joined this group to learn more and help her out since you're not a writer yourself! Fantastic stuff. I'm sure your daughter appreciates your full support!
     
  15. bumblebot
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    bumblebot Senior Member

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    I'm in college now and last year I had to make a choice between going to school for writing at School of the Arts Institute in Chicago, or picking a different degree and staying close to home. For awhile I was really enthusiastic about SAIC, I applied, got accepted and got some merit scholarships.

    But in the end, I chickened out. Not only was it obscenely expensive, writing seems to me like a field where few people care about your credentials; if you send in a fantastic manuscript, it doesn't matter if you didn't graduate high school. In the past, creative writing classes have been instrumental in my improvement but I was not sure it would be worth it to go across the country and drop 100k+ on a degree for it.

    So I picked another degree and Elgaisma is right, I think a broader education serves as rich material for writing. I am getting a degree in biology and feeding my interest in science has added interesting dimensions to some of my stories. It will, to be a little cynical, also look a lot better on almost any resume, I think.

    I am also taking creative classes and trying to spend a lot of time writing and I think I have made the right choice. My parents are still my biggest fans, that means more to me than almost anything so I wanted to say it's cool to see you (and other parents) being so supportive about their kids' choices. Speaking from the point of view of someone who probably would have quit writing a long time ago if my parents weren't interested, one of the best things you can do might just be to get excited about her stories and let her share them with you as much as you can, even if you can't provide much critique.
     
  16. The Degenerate
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    The Degenerate Active Member

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    Honestly, in this economy any major you choose is a viable risk. I have friends with MBA's who have a difficult time finding jobs, and at the same time I have friends who majored in the Humanities who landed all sorts of jobs from teaching, to PR, to copyediting. I have another friend who went through law school just to be denied entrance into the Bar in my state. Then there are my friends who never went to school at all who are making at least $50k. In the end, it's not the degree that matters, it's the skills you've acquired that you capitalize on.

    But for the discussion at hand, let's look at the writing or Lit degree. Do you need it to be a writer? Absolutely not. Many great writers never majored in English. Likewise, some have. It's really up to personal preference. My favorite professor always used to say, "Major in what you love and know you'll do well at."

    Jobs with an English degree? Well, you've got to be creative and lucky. Out of college I did everything from management to teaching English as a second language. One of my Lit friends proofreads a magazine. Another does Copywriting. One is in advertisement now. Most are still in retail. I'm going for my MFA now, so I have an adjunct position for the next two years. After that? Who the hell knows where I'll be. But no matter what, I always be writing, so I'm content.
     
  17. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    I agree with those who say it's her choice as to what she majors in.

    However, you might want to suggest she consider something like public relations or advertising -- these fields require lots of writing classes and creativity (I picked PR as a major) but are also quite marketable in the career playing field.

    She can take fiction writing workshops as electives while in college without having to actually major in creative writing.
     
  18. Yoshiko
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    Yoshiko Contributing Member Contributor

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    I agree with others that it is ultimately her choice. However, based on my own experience, I definitely think the parents should have their input too.

    I was determined from age nine I wanted to be a writer. However, when it came to talking to the guidance teachers and careers counsellor in high school they all told me to go down a more realistic route. This is what they were saying to someone who had already been published in multiple anthologies (some school age, some with adults) and was single-handedly writing, editing and submitting articles to the local paper every week on behalf of the school.

    My parents agreed with the teachers and the counsellor but they also said that in the end it was my life and they couldn't tell me what to do. I could tell they were disappointed when I dropped out of high school to focus on writing. Later I realised they were all right: limiting all of your options to focus on a career that might never get far off the ground is a dumb move. "Being good" doesn't mean you'll ever make it big.

    Once I realised this I took a few months to think about what I genuinely wanted to do with my life and then met with the same counsellor (who had been phoning me every week since I left school to check on me. Grr.) at the local library who looked at the few qualifications I had already and made suggestions. In the end I ignored everything he said, ignored the colleges he recommended, and went my own way - but he did help me to eliminate the things I really didn't want to do. Now I'm studying to become a modern languages teacher while having short stories published on the side: it's something practical that incorporates my love of language and, at the same time, I'm still writing. Another girl in my year, who also wanted to become a writer, is now studying to become a journalist.

    Based on this I definitely think you should suggest a more practical career route too, just in case.
     
  19. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    Personally, I would have thought just a straight degree in English would give a broader basis for a career in writing-related fields, e.g. journalism. Teaching is also the fail-safe, woman-friendly second (or daytime) career of many writers (long holidays!) I may be biased--there were not courses like Creative Writing available when I was younger. To me, it's a bit like putting the cart before the horse to specialise before mastering basics.

    As far as supporting your child in her studies and interests, well, I do the same myself, having had parents who were pretty indifferent to me having a career--as far as they were concerned, going down the Lady Diana route of working for fun and then marrying someone suitable was on the cards.

    Leaving a kid to do 'whatever makes them happy' can pave the road to huge disappointment later, and letting him/her fend financially for him/herself at 18 or so seems--to me--criminally irresponsible and selfish if parents have the resources to help.

    In reaction to the lack of career advice I got I always try to be aware of the choices my daughters have and make these options clear to them. The thing is, it's hard to make firm decisions at 15 or whatever age your daughter is. My daughter won a competitive exam for a place at the fine arts high school here (she came first), but now she is not so keen on going to art college. She's more interested in going to France to study luxury goods management--she is getting frighteningly keen on earning big bucks. However, I'm sure her artistic skills will be a big help,and she is enjoying her studies.

    So, I guess you'll have to chose an education that seems to support what your daughter wants to do, without specialising too young, or cutting off other career avenues which may seem attractive later in her life.
     
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  20. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    since she's not even in high school yet, she has 3 years before she needs to consider which college she wants to go to [if she still does, by then], so i suggest you take the pressure off both your daughter and yourselves for a couple of years and just encourage her to do whatever it is that she feels good about, as long as it doesn't impact negatively on her school work...

    teens are prone to changing their minds, so who knows what she'll want to do by the time college decisions need to be made?... she may be just as passionate then about being a doctor or a diplomat, want to write only 'on the side' or not at all... but even if she's still wanting to be a writer first and foremost, she'll need to have a 'day job' so a second major will be a must...

    btw, i'm a mom of 7, all but one of which are daughters, so do know whereof i speak... for now, just be proud of your gifted child and save up for her college education, but don't agonize over it... yet...

    love and hugs, maia
     

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