I first met Amanda at last year's ACFW Conference when I was talking to somebody in the hallway outside the main ballroom and noticed a mom and daughter hovering out of the corner of my eye. When I finished my conversation, I turned to them, and in that very instant, I experienced one of the true highlights of the conference. The mom handed me a beautiful gift pack of a scented candle and soap, and although I suppose it might have been a hint that I should "clean up" the excessive passion in my prose, it turned out that her 16-year-old daughter was a devoted reader friend of mine. Never, ever have I been so struck by a young girl as I was with Amanda. Shy and gentle, she evoked such instant affection in my heart that I kept hugging the poor thing, probably traumatizing her for life. Today, we are the best of friends and I am SO excited to see what God is going to do in her life. To celebrate our month of "firsts," it is my pleasure to introduce you to the "first" incredibly young woman I have ever met who took the bull by the horns at such a young age and is pursuing her dream of publication. Please welcome, Amanda Barratt:
Hello to everyone here on Seekerville!! Thank you all so much for having me today! I’m so excited to be here!
Writing is a lot like sailing isn’t it? You row smoothly along with calm seas and blue skies, until suddenly a storm hits, rocking the boat, ripping the sails, and terrifying everyone onboard. Or maybe you hit an iceberg and a hole rips through the side of your ship. Hopefully, if you’re dedicated enough to keep chartering your course, you’ll repair the damages and continue sailing on.
Writing novels in a genre where you’re younger than most of your audience can be compared with sailing through uncharted seas. It is a course that hasn’t yet been mapped out. You never know what kind of response you’ll get and what’s around the next bend is completely unexpected. It’s a fun cruise to be sure, with plenty of twists and turns, rocky seas and calm ones. Just like every writer’s journey.
If you’re a young writer reading this, let me give you what has almost become a mantra for me. Age doesn’t matter, but writing quality does. Sometimes age works as an advantage and sometimes it can be a disadvantage. But if you’re dedicated enough, and determined enough to sail straight and navigate the storms, age is really not important. What is important is perfecting the craft of writing, becoming industry savvy, and most of all- just writing.
One of my favorite movies, Becoming Jane, about the life of the amazing Jane Austen, contains some wonderful advice for all writers. Ann Radcliff is giving Jane, who is a relatively young and inexperienced writer at the time, some advice. She says, “Knowledge will come in time. But until then, that’s what the imagination is for.” Isn’t imagination the main ingredient for good writing at any age? After all, how many of us have lived as English aristocrats or slew dragons? Although a young writer may not have experienced all the emotions of someone much older, they have experienced some, and possibly many, depending on their life experiences. Everyone has knowledge of regret and disappointment. Everyone, to some extent, has loved and lost. Drawing on those emotions can be the building blocks for the emotions of characters. What is lacking can certainly be accomplished with the imagination God has given every natural born writer.
Many (if not most) authors write about younger characters. This is where being younger can work to our advantage. I once read a review for a historical romance written by an author in her late twenties. The reviewer said they thought the author gave a more accurate depiction of the way a young woman would think and feel because the author was very close in age to her heroine. After all, someone with a great deal of life experience might have to remember what it was like to be eighteen again, in order to write that emotion accurately. (By the way, so many authors do this extremely well, including all you amazingly talented Seekers!) In our current culture we tend to relegate youth to a static existence. Thinking all that’s capable of them is biding, or even wasting, their time until adulthood. This is great shame. My great-grandmother was married at 15! Not that I’m advocating this, but young people are capable of so much, if only this mindset could be erased. One great advantage to being a young writer, is the freshness of it all. We’re excited about sitting down and putting words on paper, because most of us aren’t doing it because we have to, but because it’s what we love and are passionate about. Not that older writers are not in love with what they do, because the ones I know certainly are. However, when we age, sometimes even the things we used to love, become work. Our mindsets need to keep the freshness and enthusiasm of youth.
Still, I must face the fact that due to my age there have been disadvantages. I’ve had industry professionals imply that because of my youth I’m not qualified to write in the genre I write (historical romance). My goal is, and I am sure other young writers would say the same, is to be taken seriously and to have my work assessed in the same fashion as a writer of any age. As young writers, we don’t want favoritism, nor do we want boundaries or segregation. Personally, I don’t want to be known as a “teen writer” but as simply - a writer.
Lastly, I will admit, lack of experience can be a disadvantage. Young writers do lack the compounding knowledge that other writers have. We haven’t done all that we will do and see in our lifetimes. However, as we experience new things, and new challenges come our way, we will continue to embrace them and learn, thus aiding our writing.
Getting published may take longer because of age and young writers usually are willing to accept this. Yet that doesn’t mean we’ll become any less persistent or stop trying. At the 2011 ACFW conference Tracie Peterson ended one of her talks with a question. She asked, “If you knew that you would never be published would you still continue to write?” To this, I can honestly answer yes. Although my stories would undoubtedly become a whole lot more Dickensian and I wouldn’t worry so much about that bothersome POV, I would still write because it is what God has called me do, and I could not stop writing any more than I could stop breathing.
Four years and five novels later, I’ve learned so much from when I started. I’ve had so many people offer encouragement, support, and advice and I hope to do the same for other young writers. I think many of them will become the future of fiction, adding new slants and new ideas to what already exists.
So keep sailing, young writers (and all writers too!) There’s bound to be rough seas ahead but staying the course can lead to unimaginable rewards.
About Amanda Barratt: Amanda is a Historical Romance author who has just finished her fifth novel. She has won several awards for her fiction and enjoys writing about eras such as the Gilded Age and Regency England. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and Faith Writers. She lives in northern Michigan with her family where she enjoys attending writers conferences, reading, researching history, and of course writing.
You can learn more about Amanda and her writing by visiting her blog at:
GIVEAWAYS GALORE!!! Amanda is offering a special Seekerville giveaway of six awesome books from some of the writers here on Seekerville. So leave a comment with your email and you could possible win one of the following: A Heart Revealed by Julie Lessman, Out of Control by Mary Connealy, An Inconvenient Match by Janet Dean, Love By The Book by Cara Lynn James, A Family For Faith by Missy Tippens, or Mended Hearts by Ruth Logan Herne.
Winners will be contacted and annnounced on the Seekerville Weekend Edition.