It turns out my thirteen-year-old granddaughter is a writer, too. She spent a week with me recently and while she was here, she worked on a short story. Imagine: here’s this dear child whom I love to distraction, saying, “Nana, can I read you what I wrote?”
Most of us in writing critique groups know the feeling of panic that hits when a fellow-author asks if we’ll read his or her work. Yikes! What if it’s lousy? Most writers secretly want praise and assurance that their work is absolutely flawless. Some thick-skinned individuals can deal with carefully worded suggestions. But almost everybody gets mad if you become too carried away in the honesty department. That’s what I was thinking.
What I said was, “Of course.” I planned to be kind. She’s just a kid.
Imagine my relief when I realized she can write! She composed dialogue that sounded like real people talking, and she understood point of view. I’ve been in classes where people five times her age had trouble with those aspects of fiction-writing. (I am sometimes one of them.) Her innate talent reinforced my belief that the ability to write is with us from an early age. You can learn to parse a sentence. You can learn rules, guidelines and iambic pentameter. But a natural ability to get words onto paper in readable fashion is as unmistakable as a graceful jump shot that sends the ball whooshing through the net. You know it when you see it.
So there’s my granddaughter, plugging away on a story that may accompany her application to a fine arts high school. She read it to me scene by scene. I made notes and then we talked. Because she’s the real deal, I gave her the same kind of critique I’d give an adult – honest and unvarnished. Now here’s the cherry on top of the sundae: she could take criticism and utilize suggestions for a rewrite, while understanding that it’s her work and her voice. Sometimes she didn’t agree with my comments and that’s okay. She got it that the only proper response to a critique is “Thanks. I’ll consider that.”
Now, you may be thinking that I’m just a proud grandma, and quite possibly you’d be right. But I’ve hung out with enough writers to feel confident that I can recognize ability. Can’t wait to see where this girl’s talent takes her. I’m betting there will be a book dedication to good old Nana someday.