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Author Topic: 12-year-old author...can she write as well as and adult?
Darth Petra
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Flipping through a magazine for young girls one day, I found an advertisement for a book, called "Swordbird", written by a 12-year-old girl. I was thrilled to see that a child had the dedication to finish and publish a book. Being a young writer myself, it sort of raised my hopes that prehaps, I too could write and publish something.
I looked at the reviews on Amazon, and several other review sites. They all said the same thing: "This book is wonderful! It gives a deep message of peace," Some went further: "This book would be an acomplishment for an adult author!" It was even compared to LotR and Watership Down.
The library got the book to me on time. I read it in about a half-hour. And I was sorely dissapointed. It read, well, like a 12-year old wrote it! The prose was immature, and it was a lot like Redwall. It really wasn't good at all, and if an adult had written it, I don't think it would have gotten published. Do you think that we should really pat her on the back and say: "good job", just because we don't want to dissapoint her? Should we expect less of an author because of her age?

Well, I know one thing: if she can publish a book that everyone loves, so can I, and so can anybody on here who is a half-way decent writer.


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wrenbird
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I have to agree. I picked up Swordbird in the bookstore and read for a bit. It was, as you said, clearly written by a twelve year old.
Honestly, things like that make me roll my eyes. Okay, so it is really impressive that a kid or teenager can write a book, but does that mean it deserves to be published? I felt this way about a book called The Prophecy of the Stones. It was written by a 14 year old girl. I read about 10 pages of it before I literally could not read another word. It was terrible, and I thought "Did this only get published because it was written by a 14 year old and that's a novelty?" Publishing houses don't give many new authors a chance, why oh why do they waste thier quota on crappy books written by kids?

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annepin
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I think it's because kids might be attracted to books written by kids. It's a huge marketing edge. Think about Eragon.

As writers, I think we tend to overlook the fact that the book publishing industry is just that, an industry. Publishers will go for whatever they think sells for whatever reason.


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Darth Petra
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But how does that explain the excellent reviews, annepin? People genuinely think it's good, which is sort of scary, because it wasn't. I want to get published because I'm a good writer. I don't wnat to get published just to get published.
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Robert Nowall
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Things like that make me wonder why my stuff fails of acceptance...

I read somewhere that Stephen King wrote the first (unrevised) sections of that Dark Tower thing when he was in his late teens or early twenties...I first read them when I was in my late teens and didn't notice...but later on I sure did, especially when I could compare it with his later work.

Who's had some of their teenaged work published, either at that age or later? King, S. E. Hinton, the guy who wrote Eragon, Asimov...can't think of any others off hand.

Will this twelve-year-old have any later work to compare it to?


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Darth Petra
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The twelve-year old wrote a sequel. I've read the first chapter on Amazon, and it's no better than the last.
I guess I should have been more ambitious when I was twelve, and I'd be famous now.
The stuff I wrote when I was 12 was pretty crappy. I've gone back and read it...and cringed. It's about as bad as Swordbird, only not finished. And it will remain unfinished, because it's not worth finishing.

I do not think that a book should get published unless it is genuinely good. Prehaps publishers shouldn't even know the age of the person until they've rejected the crappy book.


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wrenbird
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I think annepin hit it dead on. When push comes to shove, the publishing industry is out to make the quick buck, the big splash. These books make people say "oh wow, I have to check that out." And Darth Petra and I fell right in line.
*sighs*
Oh well, I'll just try and keep faith that their primary goal still is finding good stories. All the rest are just frills.

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Robert Nowall
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Should'a mentioned an episode of "Mary Tyler Moore," which, if you remember it, bears on this topic...but if a lot of you don't (it was over thirty years ago, and maybe that long since the last time I saw that episode), I'll try to explain who's who as I go along...

...seems this one character's (Phyllis's) daughter wrote an essay...Phyllis got Mary to say it was good...then proceded to try to get Mary to get another character (Lou Grant) to take it to a publisher...but when Mary tries to explain how the Lou Grant won't take it into the publisher, Phyllis gets the idea it should be turned into a book...and Phyllis's daughter tells Mary she doesn't want to do this...and, before the plug is pulled on the whole thing, Phyllis is seen at the typewriter, "blocking it out" because she "knows her style."

So if a twelve-year-old writes a book and gets it published, you'll permit me a little doubt about just who wrote it...


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annepin
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Yeah, there is that. As for the glowing reviews... I haven't seen them. But it sounds to me like they are reviewing the book as if a 12-year-old wrote them.

As for what "should" get published... come on, really? Let's not make this an exclusive market of "only the good stuff should get published." "Good" is purely subjective. Many authors who are now classics of literature only got famous posthumously--meaning, for whatever reason, their work wasn't published or appreciated early on. Sure, I'm puzzled by the junk that gets published, but who's to say what should and shouldn't get published? There are many roads to publication, many roads to success, and many ways to appreciate a book--for some, the fact that a 12-year-old wrote a book that's coherent is enough.


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Darth Petra
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But see, the prose was awful. It was like reading a bad fanfiction. The characters were very much Mary-sueish. The whole thing was basiacly stolen from Redwall (which I like).
It also really annoyed me how it was compared to LotR and Watership Down. It was nothing even comparable to Tolkien, or Richard Adams.
The reviewers are saying that it's an allegory. An allegory for what? Seriously, it's very simple. There's nothing to it. They're acting like it's the next Animal Farm (which I love).

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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Have you posted any of this in a review on Amazon, Darth Petra?

Your opinion is as valid there as anyone else's, and you really ought to be heard.


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Darth Petra
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I can't write a review, because I have never ordered anything from Amazon. Any book I want I get from the library, as to save money, which I don't have much of .
I've written reviews on other sites, though.

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Robert Nowall
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Libraries are great places to find reading material...but a lot of it tends to be older, with the newer stuff either not there or hard to get a hold of because somebody else has it out.

But I digress...one scene from the abovementioned "Mary Tyler Moore" episode went something like this:

Lou Grant: What is this? This is terrible.

Mary: I think you should know a twelve-year-old girl wrote that.

Lou Grant: Oh. Then it's terrific.


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Darth Petra
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That's probably what happened. I seem to be one of the only ones who hates it. She has a million adoring fans on the chatroom of her website.


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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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Well, that group is what statisticians call "a self-selected sample" and they don't really mean all that much when you consider how huge the Internet is.

People who don't like her book are not very likely to show up and post anything on her chatroom, and if they did, there's a good chance their posts would be edited out anyway.


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Darth Petra
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I posted on her chatroom. I wasn't rude, I just gave my opinion. The others yelled at me and called me "jealous". The people who write the Amazon reviews are patronizing formics.


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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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Oh, well.

At least we didn't yell at you for your opinion.


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annepin
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I don't think you need to buy anything to post a review, you just have to create an account (i.e. register).
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Robert Nowall
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About two-thirds of the dozen or so reviews I posted there were for books I didn't buy there, so I assume that's all right. I do shop there. (Though I haven't put any reviews up since, oh, about 2004.)
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Darth Petra
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I did register, but it wouldn't let me write a review. It did, for some stupid reason let me write a "kids review" without buying anything. I did, and it got removed. Stupid Amazon.
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Robert Nowall
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I looked for the book today at the bookstore, just to look through it...I remembered the title, but then couldn't remember the name of the writer, which is the way these things are usually indexed.

But then I look back on this and still have that question: what is the writer's name? I admit I miss details when I browse through these things, but I can't find it on a careful look. I'm going to another bookstore tomorrow and hope to do some looking there, so if someone mentions it before tomorrow morning I've got a shot...


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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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Nancy Yi Fan
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Robert Nowall
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Thank you...I'll find out when I get there whether it's under "Y" or "F"...
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rickfisher
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It's not a terribly good seller on Amazon (ranked mid-300,000s) but it is selling.

Also, all the favorable reviews I saw were by kids or groups of kids (except the one from Publishers Weekly!), but NOT all the unfavorable ones were by adults. Tells you something.

Oh, and I know of another writer who wrote a novel, when he was around 16, that would have been published, except the editor took him aside and advised him not to do it. They'd publish it, but the author would be marketed as a prodigy. The editor said it would ruin his career. He took the editor's advice, and looking back, realized it was good. The book was lousy, and it would have haunted his list of works for ever.

[This message has been edited by rickfisher (edited March 27, 2008).]


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Robert Nowall
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Alas, I got to the bookstore and plum forgot...remembered when I was halfway down the street away from the place...I'm a creature of habit and tend to visit certain sections of, say, a bookstore, in a certain order...

But there's always next time...


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Darth Petra
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Well, don't buy it, Robbie. Just read a few chapters there. If you must read the whole thing then go to the library.
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JustInProse
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After reading 20 minutes of those forums, I'm never mentioning that again!

[This message has been edited by JustInProse (edited March 28, 2008).]


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annepin
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Em, yeah... Eragon is kind of a volatile subject around here.

Past discussions are here, here, and here.

I contend jealousy, envy, and discussions of "should not have gotten published" or "cannot believe this got published" and whatnot to be counterproductive.

Read, judge, learn, and write better stuff.

[This message has been edited by annepin (edited March 28, 2008).]

[This message has been edited by annepin (edited March 28, 2008).]


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annepin
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Did my wording scare you off? I don't want to discourage discussion, just wanted to give you a heads-up. It's always refreshing to hear new points of view.
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Darth Petra
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Eargon was OK. It wasn't terrible, but it wasn't good. I think the kid has potential.
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smncameron
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Eragon irritated me beyond all measure. It had an additonal edge in that Paolini's parents are publishers, but obviously being published is only half the battle. You do need to appeal to readers as well.

I imagine the novelty is a huge factor, not so much because kids like books written by kids as parents like buying them. "Look Jimmy, if you didn't play so many video games, you could be an author too!"

Edit: Of course jealousy plays a role. However, that jealousy is rooted in the fact that the work isn't amazing. If it were just because of his success there would be giant threads about J.K. Rowling and Stephen King (both of whom are much more succesfull). When I read their books, I envy their talents, when I read Eragon, I envy Tolkiens. (That was a cheap shot)

[This message has been edited by smncameron (edited March 28, 2008).]


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Darth Petra
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Yeah, Swordbird made me sort of jealous. Especially when I found out it was crappy. Now I'm no longer jealous, just annoyed at it's screamy little fans.
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Robert Nowall
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I wouldn't dream of buying it...one does not have to eat the whole egg to know when it's rotten...

A while ago, I was going to post a lengthy rant about a book I did buy, with the dual themes of (1) how awful it was and (2) why is this writer published when they won't touch my stuff? But then I thought I'd have to sit down and read more of it, and make notes...ah, well...the book is still here and I may get to it someday...


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JustInProse
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No, annepin, don't worry. You didn't stop discussion from me or anything, it just became clear to me that enough had been said on that particular topic.

Thank you very much for the heads up though.


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Darth Petra
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I never buy anything I haven't read...unless I really trust the author. I'd buy an OSC book that I haven't read, but if it's some unknown author, forget it.
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JustInProse
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I buy a lot of books I have never read, but many of these are classics. Also, I buy a lot of books at used, book sale things...where all books are a 50 cents, and hardcover a dollar.

I end up reading through almost all of them. The only problem I'm coming to is buying more than I can read


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Robert Nowall
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I can just imagine the yard sale from my stash of books...just last week I cleaned up a little and wound up with a stack about ten feet long, ten feet wide, and four feet high. (Any higher and they would've fallen over.)

I'm so possessive I can't get rid of even the books I thought were awful...the only relief I can see is that cleaning it out after I'm gone is something I won't have to worry about...

(Memo to self: leave note for executors and other relatives, have somebody go through my books before the yard sale, to weed out the rare volumes...)


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Oblomova
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I'm going to open myself up for attack and say that I appreciate the cruddy juvenilia stuff that gets published, marketing ploy or not. So there

I do wish the adult critics had stayed out of it, or at least admitted that their reviews were taking her age into consideration. And of course they shouldn't compared Tolkien and others with this child. That's ridiculous and unfair to everyone involved.

With that said, I think that all adults should worry less about this child author thing. Kids like reading each other's stuff, they always have, and it doesn't hurt them to enjoy some writing that isn't mature or complex. They can grow into discriminating readers later.

My primary concern is that these little geniuses, like their counterparts in acting and sports, are ruining their childhoods and potential careers to gratify their unfulfilled parents. That's what makes me angry. OK, rant over. Sorry about that.

p.s. edited to fix missing words in text

[This message has been edited by Oblomova (edited March 29, 2008).]

[This message has been edited by Oblomova (edited March 29, 2008).]


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smncameron
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I buy a lot of books I haven't read, but generally only on the advice of people who have. I know people who go into bookstores and buy based on the cover, but I don't understand them.
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arriki
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I buy books for all sorts of reasons.
If a lot of people around here recommend something, I'll go take a peek at it. Who knows? Maybe, heaven forbid, I've overlooked something good!

And there are writers whose name on the cover is sufficient reason to buy it. Although, if I get a loser from them, I'm very likely not to buy their next books until I've read them from the library and know I want a permanent copy.

Then there is going into the bookstore in the mood to be seduced by cover and blurb and opening couple of pages.

Meyers' trilogy would have failed to entice me if I hadn't heard so much about it from other people. I bought one copy, the first of the series, and sent it off to my older daughter who wrote back that she loved it. That's what sold it to me.


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smncameron
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I get the feeling that we are so reluctant to purchase books un-neccesarily is that we read significantly more then the average person.

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Robert Nowall
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I buy a lot of books, but I read most of them---ninety percent, I'd say---and I never buy a book I don't mean to read. (Exception: gift book buys.) Meanwhile I'm being slowly crowded out of house and home, and am considering storage space for the overflow. I've tried to stop, but I can't even cut down.

(Not that that has much to do with a twelve-year-old writing a book...)


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JustInProse
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Twelve year old writing a book?

I swore I heard something about writers being ADD...but umm...

Anyway, what was I saying?


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Darth Petra
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I don't really buy books, I just keep re-reading the ones I have. But I need to buy "Shadow of the Giant", "Xenocide", "A War of Gifts", "First meetings" and "Children of the Mind", to complete my Ender/Bean series.
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Robert Nowall
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Well, I did run across a copy of Swordbird this morning...in paperback, at six-ninety-nine...with the sequel in hardcover already out and right next to it.

Six-ninety-nine wasn't that much of a stretch for me, so for the sake of just reading through it to see if there's anything to it, I shelled out and took it away with me. (Though I got the bookstore discount for being a card-carrying member.)

I'll let you know once I finish it...


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MorwenElda
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I have a weird OCD with books. I cannot have used books. It creeps me out. I'm the kid who got sick if someone in the school sneezed, and was grossed out by other people's lack of hygiene. So used books...*shudder* unless they LOOK knew I don't even want to touch them. This makes college much more expensive unfortunately. And because of the fact I don't have a lot of cash at hand, I'm usually picky about buying books. I'm one of those people that has a collection of books I like, and I just read them over and over, and appreciate something new about them each time (I'm a firm believer that any book that was worth reading once is worth reading at least 3 times anyways).
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Darth Petra
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Member # 7126

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What I hate when I lend out books, and they don't come back in one piece. My copy of "Ender's Game" is torn at pg. 121, so I can't read the first few paragraphs. *is angry*.
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