I’d like to thank Dr. Justin Baird for inviting me to speak to the grade 5-8 students of Ridley College in St. Catharines. There I gave my usual presentation on how I became a writer, and I tweaked it to talk about venues, both online and off, where young writers can get their writing published. The Middle School had just launched an online venue called TigerScratches (link not available yet), featuring students’ writing, poetry, even sports journalism, and I was told that a lot of students who were interested in writing were asking about how to get their work out into the public eye.
I talked to them about fan fiction, which is a wonderful opportunity to practise your craft to small audiences. I’ve spoken about this before. I find writing in established universes to be an excellent set of training wheels. You have the joy of creating your own little share of a universe you love, and you have a set of tools at the ready with which to build your stories (writing in your own universe is like building your own tools). And with the web, of course, the traditional gatekeepers of fan fiction (the editors who published the stories in their own photocopied magazines) have largely disappeared and sprawling communities have appeared. One of the largest is FanFiction.net wherein you can get yourself an account and post your stories to any number of genre groups and it will be reviewed. There is even a spot for stories written in the author’s own universe (i.e. not fan fiction).
The talk was an excellent opportunity to promote What If Magazine and its companion website, a wonderful operation out of Guelph which gives voice to writers aged 19 and younger. Not only do they welcome poetry, short stories, book reviews and artwork from young writers, they themselves have a good page of links to other websites that would be useful for young writers.
Ridley College is a venerable independent school on a sprawling campus and the students were most kind and attentive and asked a lot of good questions. I must admit, with my business casual clothes in amongst all those uniforms, I felt a little underdressed. I hope the students enjoyed themselves, because I certainly did.