They Tried to Tell Her She’s too Young . . . Kate Coursey

Kate Coursey lives and writes in Salt Lake City, Utah. Her debut novel, The Hamsa’s Song, won a Gold Medal in the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards and is currently undergoing revisions at Scholastic Press. She writes mainly YA fantasy fiction. In her spare time Kate plays competitive soccer, attends West High School, and eats copious amounts of junk food.

People don’t think much of young authors. If you go online and Google “teenage writer,” one of the first links that pops up leads to an article dictating all the reasons kids shouldn’t publish. Too young, too inexperienced, too naïve…the list goes on and on, but adults always seem to find ways to discredit adolescent scribblings as unworthy of their attention.

Obviously this is a gross generalization, but when I first began to pursue publication most adults reacted in such a manner, laughing off my manuscript as an experimental foray into the world of a novelist. I ignored their negative comments, occasionally eating a tub of cream cheese frosting to sooth my writerly fears. I lacked credibility; why should I expect anyone to take me seriously?

When I entered the PUSH Novel Contest in March 2010, I wasn’t aware of the competition’s prestige. I heard scholarships were involved and decided to take my chances. When David Levithan called my house two months later, I had completely forgotten about the contest. The longer he spoke the more ecstatic I became as I realized the extent of the award (I believe I screamed once or twice and babbled senselessly…sorry, Mr. Levithan). I was assigned an editor at Scholastic Press, who is helping me revise my manuscript, and next summer I plan to spend a month as an intern at the Scholastic headquarters in New York City.

Winning a national award was entirely overwhelming. It took a few weeks for reality to sink in, and when it did I found the most noticeable change was the way people viewed my writing. Adults included me as one of their own. They asked questions and valued my opinions. When I attended the Scholastic award ceremony in New York, I was surrounded by hundreds of young, talented authors, many of whom struggled with the inferiority complex of being a teenager in an adult’s world. Scholastic changed everything for me: here was a group of professional, well-educated adults who truly believed that young people could produce great things. My editor encouraged me every step of the way, and the kids I met were inspiring both in their eloquence and creativity. Age barriers no longer seemed to exist. In New York, I wasn’t just some seventeen-year-old; the words I put on the page were all that mattered.

I’d like to think Scholastic has helped launch my career. It’s been stressful at times; now that I’ve won a national award people suddenly expect things of me, and I worry constantly about meeting those standards. I don’t know much about business, marketing, or the industry in general, but the PUSH Novel Contest has demonstrated a key component of any publishing company: people care about the story. When it comes down to it, age is just a number, and readers aren’t going to notice if the author was fifteen or seventy-five.

This gives me hope for myself and other young writers. Scholastic’s faith in teenagers, as well as the occasional tub of frosting, has gotten me through the past year of hectic revisions and emotional ups and downs. It’s a constant reminder that characters, plot, and well-crafted writing are what really counts, and as an aspiring author my focus should be on developing craft rather than worrying about the things I can’t control.

 

FYI–Everyone, Kate is a writer to watch. She is AMAZING. Truly, she’s one of the most creative people I’ve met. Young or old.

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5 Comments

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5 responses to “They Tried to Tell Her She’s too Young . . . Kate Coursey

  1. Yay Kate! Good for you! Lately I have been wondering why, when our kids are young, we tell them they can do ANYTHING. And then when they get into High School or College we urge them to pick something practical.

    I’m going to always tell my kids that they can do anything. Good for you for sticking to your dream and I can’t wait to read your book!

  2. Wow, I’m IMPRESSED! You write so much better than I did when I was 17. Congrats on the exciting award! (I’m jealous!)

  3. Congratulations, Kate. And you’re right, age doesn’t matter. I always think everyone is the same age as I am. Your example will be an inspiration to other young authors.

    Sounds like you’ve been traveling quite a bit. I hope you’re taking lots of pictures. Something to always remember.

  4. I remember at 17 thinking I couldn’t pick writing as a career because it wasn’t practical (like Lucinda said). It took a few years at college (and lots of switching my major around) for me to realize that following what you’re passionate about always ALWAYS leads to good things. you just happen to be one who knows right now what that passion is and you’re strong enough to keep going! congrats and good luck and i can’t wait to read that book of yours!

  5. ali

    It’s funny to me that you expressed having these feelings ~ that people thought you couldn’t do because you were young. Because that never crossed my mind. If anything, I think YOU’d have a better chance of reaching your audience over, say, ME, because YOU ARE THE AUDIENCE.

    I loved this part: “… people care about the story. When it comes down to it, age is just a number, and readers aren’t going to notice if the author was fifteen or seventy-five.”

    This gave ME hope, because I’m freakin’ OLD but I still have things to say and I hope they’re still received. I really do hope that readers don’t care about the age of the author, only that the author GOT IT RIGHT.

    Your post gives me hope that that’s true.

    And, having had the awesome opportunity to read your work, ITA: YOU, Kate, are one to watch. Seriously.

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