Thursday, April 5, 2012

Last gasp of the gatekeepers

A story in the New York Times this past Saturday, "Young Writers Dazzle Publisher (Mom and Dad)," discusses the increasing numbers of kids under eighteen who are writing books and self-publishing them, using one of the many platforms that make this easy to do.

In my opinion, this is phenomenal. For a twelve-year-old, or a fifteen-year-old, to have the discipline and initiative to write a book, I think that is something to be celebrated. Whether the book has literary merit is beside the point.

For the young author, what a fantastic feeling it must be to hold a printed book in her hands that she wrote herself. And what an inspiration to her friends as well. The message is: don't worry about gatekeepers - ignore them! Your success in life isn't going to be determined by the decision of an admissions officer or HR manager - technology gives you the tools to create and spread your art.

There are few better ways to understand literature than to write a novel yourself. These kids who are writing books are learning a lot more from writing than they are in English class. They are forced to get a character into and out of a room; to come up with dialogue; to describe a scene. I'll bet they are far more attentive to what they read in school that their peers. Because they are looking for tricks they can use.

Yet the gatekeepers, who don't understand that the world has changed, object:

But others see the blurring of the line between publishing and self-publishing as a lost opportunity to teach children about adversity and perseverance.

My rough translation of this point of view into plain English is:

We want to ensure children understand that they need to wait for approval from authority. If we start teaching children that they can accomplish their dreams without waiting for the permission of a gatekeeper, how are we ever going to get them to work in a factory?

Here is my favorite quote of the article:

Alan Rinzler, a publishing industry veteran who now works with writers as an editorial consultant, suggested parents hire a professional editor like him to work with their child to tear a manuscript apart and help make it better.

Mr. Rinzler calls to mind a manuscript illuminator complaining about the new printing press.

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