Monday, May 21, 2012

My First Career Day Gig

I don't know if there are any other writers out there wondering what to do for Career Day at their kids' schools, but I looked, and maybe I didn't look closely enough, but I didn't find much online. Since I wasn't able to pull a cheat-sheet together (did I mention I'm still on deadline?), I went ahead and wrote some lists for my display board. Maybe they're not the greatest, but I think they're honest. With that in mind, here are a few samples (sorry about the all caps--I wanted the signs to be visible from a distance):

TIPS FOR DEVELOPING A FICTION-WRITING CAREER:
1. HAVE AN ALTERNATE MEANS OF INCOME.
2. READ THE TYPES OF BOOKS YOU WANT TO WRITE.
3. KEEP A JOURNAL. WRITE AT LEAST 3 PAGES/DAY.
4. PAY SERIOUS ATTENTION IN ENGLISH CLASS.
5. BEYOND ENGLISH, STUDY STORY STRUCTURE.
6. OUTLINE STORIES BEFORE WRITING THEM.
7. WRITE A STORY, THEN ANOTHER, AND ANOTHER…
8. FORM OR JOIN A CRITIQUE GROUP.
9. LEARN ABOUT PUBLISHING & FIND AN AGENT.
10. DON’T GIVE UP! ON AVERAGE, IT TAKES WRITERS 10 YEARS TO ACHIEVE TRADITIONAL PUBLICATION.

WRITING DOs:
*DO WORK WITH A MENTOR (SOMEONE WHO HAS MORE WRITING EXPERIENCE THAN YOU, LIKE A TEACHER OR PUBLISHED WRITER).
*DO JOIN A CRITIQUE GROUP OF LIKE-MINDED WRITERS.
*DO ATTEND WRITING CLASSES AND CONFERENCES.
*DO SIGN UP FOR AN EVALUATION BY AN INDUSTRY PROFESSIONAL AT A WRITER’S CONFERENCE.
*DO ENTER WRITING CONTESTS.

WRITING DON’Ts:
*DON’T ASK SOMEONE WHO DOESN’T USUALLY READ THE TYPE OF BOOK YOU’VE WRITTEN TO READ YOURS AND TELL YOU WHAT HE OR SHE THINKS.
*DON’T ASK YOUR FRIENDS, PARENTS, OR RELATIVES TO READ YOUR WORK—THEY LOVE YOU; THEY’RE NOT GOING TO GIVE YOU AN UNBIASED OPINION.
*DON’T FORGET THE WORD FOR SOMEONE WHO NEVER GIVES UP: PUBLISHED!


As far as props went, I brought chocolate and Kleenex to represent how much receiving rejections is part of the writer's journey, as well as a huge bin of writing books. Since I'm writing for Alloy, I also brought all the Alloy-produced books I own, along with a handful of giveaway books my editor sent me for the occasion.

Here's how that went:

1. If they even glanced at them, the kids seemed to think I had written the writing books, not read them. 

2. Almost every girl who came by my station was familiar with the Alloy books I brought with me. How to Rock Braces and Glasses was particularly noted by the kids (over long-time bookstore favorites like The Clique, Gossip Girl, and The Vampire Diaries!?!), since I guess there's a new TV show on Nick based on it.

3. Even girls who were too cool for Career Day and not at all interested in writing (girls I had a more than sneaking suspicion were "popular") had read multiple Alloy series.

4. Approximately 4 of the 350 boys who came by my station wanted to talk about writing. The other 346 grabbed a handful of chocolate and took off for the security-camera/spyware software guy's station next door to mine.

That said, I really enjoyed meeting the students at Earl Warren Middle School in Solana Beach. Overall, the students interested in my station were a quiet bunch. They came by and just stared at me at first, so I stared back at them, but then I finally realized I needed to be the grown-up in the shyness standoff, so I started asking them, "So, do you have any questions about writing?" which finally got our conversation rolling.

My one regret for the day is that I didn't ask anyone to take a photo of me with the boy who came up to introduce himself NAMED ARA!!! He even pronounces it the same way I do! Apparently, his parents are Slovenian, so perhaps the name isn't so unusual in Slovenia.

I saved most of my giveaway books for tomorrow's Career Day appearance at Canyon Crest Academy (one of our local public high schools), but I did give a very friendly aspiring writer named Maia Z. at EWMS a book of her choice (she chose something from The Secret Circle series).

All right--guess I should get back to those chapters I need to finish writing tonight. Hopefully more soon!

2 comments:

Cat Winters said...

Your tips for young writers are wonderful, Ara. I'm going to have to bookmark this page for future career fair ideas!

That must have been quite a trip meeting a male Ara!

Good luck with that deadline!!!

Ara Burklund said...

Thanks, Cathy! Yeah, it was fun meeting another Ara--he was a total sweetheart.