Charlie Barber. Baggage. Grade 12, Age 17. Gold Medal, 2010.

Kris, a high school senior, asked Ned for advice on starting your career as a writer and getting published.

Kris asked:

I’m a high school senior and an aspiring novelist. I’ve gotten through my first novel (and a second), but I’m unsure where to go from here. I know I want to eventually get them published, but should I wait until I finish high school and/or college to try to pursue my career or maybe look for an agent now? How did you start out?

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Soomin Kim, "Dream2." Age 13, Grade 7. 2010 Silver Medal, Painting.

For many people aspiring to do anything, the wait for a big break can seem eternal. Author Rick Moody’s advice to recipients of the 2009 Scholastic Awards was: “Be patient.”

Rick Moody: If I had one bit of advice for all younger writers, all beginning writers, all apprentice writers, that advice would be as follows: be patient. There’s no rush. When I was writing my first novel I was still working at Farrar, Straus & Giroux in New York City, my boss, the estimable editor in chief at that particular house (himself a poet), and I were once talking about writing and trying to edit at the same time, and how work inevitably took a toll on the writing. Read More

American author John Steinbeck found his writing voice during the Great Depression. In this open letter to all aspiring writers, he shares the best writing advice his teacher ever gave him.

Dear Writer:

Although it must be a thousand years ago that I sat in a class in story writing at Stanford, I remember the experience very clearly. I was bright-eyes and bushy-brained and prepared to absorb the secret formula for writing good short stories, even great short stories. This illusion was canceled very quickly. The only way to write a good short story, we were told, is to write a good short story. Only after it is written can it be taken apart to see how it was done. It is a most difficult form, as we were told, and the proof lies in how very few great short stories there are in the world.

The basic rule given us was simple and heartbreaking. Read More

Tiffany Droke, "Me, Myself & I." Age 17, Grade 12. 2010 American Visions Medal, Painting.

One student asked a writer how to respond to criticism they didn’t agree with.

Anonymous: When my English teacher edits my short stories, sometimes I don’t always like or agree with her comments about the way I write. Do I have to listen to them?

Ned Said: There is such a thing as being too responsive to criticism. Writing isn’t like math — it’s never objectively “right” — so it can always be critiqued, and if you don’t stand up to the critics at some point your work turns to mush. You should listen to the edits of your teacher that ring true to you — especially the ones that 1) match comments other people have given on your work and 2) resonate with secret worries you had yourself (“I knew I used too many adverbs!”). But if your teacher suggests things that are really outrageous, like “needs more adverbs,” you’re within your rights to say “thanks for your opinion” and keep writing the way that feels right to you. That’s how you develop a style.

Have questions about writing, or the business of publishing? Ask a real writer! Ned Vizzini Vizzini is the author of three acclaimed young adult books: It’s Kind of a Funny Story (now a major motion picture), Be More Chill, and Teen Angst? Naaah…. Ned has spoken at over 200 schools, universities, and libraries around the world about writing and mental health. E-mail your questions to askned@artandwriting.org.

Our friends at Amazon are presenting an exciting opportunity: the chance to be their 2011 Amazon Breakthrough Novelist!

Sign Language, by 2010 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Winner Amy Ackley.

The fourth Amazon Breakthrough Award is looking for new literary voices in two categories: General Fiction and Young Adult. This annual contest is open to novelists of all levels who are at least 13 years of age. Participants submit their manuscripts for a chance to secure a publishing deal with Penguin and a $15,000 advance. Read More

Skye St. James. "The Girl's Picture Book." Grade 7. 2010 Gold Medal, Photography.

Brittany Murnahan, a high school English teacher, sent in a question about book publishing for the classroom.

Brittany asked:

Good morning!

I teach English at a private school. For my January Term (J-Term) course, I am planning a two-week workshop in which my students will work on writing and publishing a children’s book collectively. Do you have any advice for us that may be any different than advice for the normal author? Should we raise money to pay for the publishing? Read More