In keeping with a recent resolution, this post is devoted to a writer who is still living… or should I say, already living?  I was delighted but bemused to receive the following request for career advice, on behalf of a family friend whose “youngest son has a liking to write”:

Enis apparently started writing a book (?) when he was 6 and after many redo’s has finalized the 300+ pages recently. It’s in English, he attends a British primary school in Ankara. He has written poetry which has been published in some sort of publication in England through his school. He is very outgoing, active in all theatrical plays & enjoys being the master of ceremony in events. He has contacted someone in the US to publish his book but the deal was so confusing he let go.

His family is seeking some sort of advice on the possibilities of publishing such a book, but more importantly on defining a path to develop his abilities. I thought you may be able to suggest a way or someone who could usher this young fellow.

Needless to say, despite various differences in our characters (I don’t care for being the master of ceremonies, myself), I felt a great sympathy for little Enis. How vividly one can picture the situation sketched in the 8 words: “the deal was so confusing he let go”! Alas, despite my status as the writer of the family, I have little if any idea how a 6-year-old would go about getting a 300-pp novel published in the US or anywhere else.

My response was that the most important thing for such a very young writer is the love and support of his parents; and also that one nice English-language publication venue for children under 13 is the literary magazine Stone Soup. Those interested in the latest American literary trends will find much of interest in the archive of “embryo lit” (if I may coin a term) on themes ranging from Holocaust to Native American.  Personally I recommend the Kafkaesque “They’re Pigs!”, by Adam Jacobs (age 11), and “A Girl With Red Hair Is Nice To Know!”, by Annika Thomas (also 11).

Thanks to the talented living writer Gideon Lewis-Kraus for this amazing image by Nat Farbman: Dutch billiards prodigy Renske Quax feeding cream to his cat.

I am also pleased to report that I just posted my first 5-star Amazon review of a book I loved by a (somewhat older) living author.  My favorite thing about Gilead is the first-person narration, which somehow manages not to be what review-lingo calls “virtuosic,” even though, objectively speaking, it is virtuosic, and even involves “virtuosic ventriloquization” (i.e. it’s written by a 60-y-o female PhD holder, from the POV of a 70-y-o male small-town preacher).  I’m hard-pressed to say right now what makes this ventriloquization strike me as human rather than either “dazzling” or hokey.

It is, as the small-town preacher says, a remarkable thing: it’s almost always possible – and I think also often useful – to find post facto justifications for what one does and doesn’t like in literature. I‘m pretty confident I could find formal reasons in this case, too.  But I do wonder sometimes whether it isn’t all a matter of execution, or, worse yet, personal taste… maybe related to some childhood trauma?!?!

Brave readers, I leave you with this image of the primal scene:

Illustration by a young artist

“They’re Pigs!”, illustration by Karina Jivkova (age 13)

Here’s to all the prodigies!

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  1. Dara Horn Says:

    I recommend a publication called Merlyn’s Pen, which is a national (USA) magazine of student writing. I published with them when I was a teenager and have had many occasions to be in touch with the editor in recent years. His name is Jim Stahl and he is among the wonders of the world. merlyn@merlynspen.org. Good luck to Enis! (It wasn’t clear from your friend’s message whether Enis is STILL 6 years old. Even if he isn’t, I still wish him luck!)

  2. Selin Gulgoz Says:


    What about Dave Eggers and the McSweeney’s stuff? I believe they frequently publish writings by kids through the volunteer writing workshops they hold in different cities across the US – who knows they might be interested in someone like Enis :)

    Here’s their website: http://www.mcsweeneys.net/tendency/

    826 is the name of the writing workshops I’m talking about but I don’t know who would be the best person to contact. Maybe Eggers himself?

    Take care!

  3. Geoff Roberts Says:

    All very god advice, but I’m worried about the Billard genius feeding cream to his cat. Not good for the fellow, although he does seem to be enjoying it. (I know about cats. I had one thet answered the telephone and opened the flat door when the bell rang. She loved travelling in the car with me too.)

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