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Grown-up Writers; Reading Parameters

February 18, 2011 | by

Is there an age requirement in submitting to magazines? I am seventeen years old, and I’ve wanted to be a professional writer since I was thirteen. I feel like I am ready to submit my work to publications like The Paris Review. But it seems like the normal age to be published these days is your forties, and no offense to those writers, but I think when teens hear about a young-adult novel or material of that nature, it would be nice to also know that it was written by an actual teen. (And I don’t think we should have to go to a teen magazine just for that.) So why is the norm so close to the forties and fifties? Is it really for the maturity of the work? If that’s the case I think I would fit in without a problem. —T

Oh, T! I remember feeling exactly the same frustration. Unfortunately—and it is unfortunate, when you’re sitting there waiting for high school to end—grown-ups enjoy two big advantages over teenagers, when it comes to writing: They know what it’s like to be a kid—and also what it’s like to be older. (It is constantly surprising, how different it is to be older.) And they just have more practice writing and reading. They know which rules it’s okay to break and when to break them. Nothing teaches you that but time and practice. If I were you, I wouldn’t turn up my nose at the teen zines. But to answer your original question, I don’t think there’s any age requirement for submitting to grown-up publications. And if there is, to hell with it—that’s a rule you should go ahead and disregard!

I have given myself the year-long task of shoring up the foundations of my canonical reading and have set the parameters of books written between 1830 and 1930. Please, could you recommend some out-of-the-ordinary, little-known titles from this period that you consider essential reading? Thanks, Orlando

Orlando, I’m stumped. That combination of ordinary,” “little-known,” and “essential” has got me beat: the Venn diagram shrinks to nothingness. Or, maybe, to the countours of Cranford and New Grub Street. But what a period you’ve chosen! You have all the best novels before you. I hope you will report back at the end of the year!

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6 COMMENTS

4 Comments

  1. Christine | February 18, 2011 at 5:09 pm

    Orlando, I reccomend Hjalmar Soderberg’s The Serious Game (1912), Mikhail Bulgakov’s A Country Doctor’s Notebook (1927), Dezso Kosztolanyi’s Skylark (1924), Theodore Dreiser’s Jennie Gerhardt (1911), Alexander Herzen’s My Past and Thoughts (1868).

  2. Lorin Stein | February 19, 2011 at 9:19 am

    Christine, thank you! Something tells me those are exactly the sort of recommendation Orlando had in mind. Wonderful.

    I hope others will chime in.

  3. Dylan Hicks | February 22, 2011 at 12:25 am

    Christine’s suggestions do seem right on the mark. I’ll chime in with a few other suggestions, most likely too well known to fit the bill, but perhaps not. Theodor Fontane’s “Effi Briest” is an acknowledged classic but not widely read in the States. And by the way, New York Review Books has just issued a translation of Fontane’s “Irretrievable” (unknown to me) with an introduction by Philip Lopate. Jean Toomer’s beautiful Harlem Renaissance book “Cane” has been much praised, but I still don’t see it on lots of Great Books lists or what have you. Goncharov’s “Oblomov” is a Russian classic that not everyone knows, and if you don’t finish it, you’ll at least be acting in the spirit of its hero.

  4. David Williams | May 14, 2011 at 12:38 am

    Tell T that for some confidence building about the possibility of mature writing from a teenager he should find some of James Baldwin’s early writing. Baldwin was writing very well when he was seventeen.

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