As a 3-year-old, before I could even spell, I scribbled furiously in the notebooks I kept clutched at my side. My mom says it was a sign that I was going to become a writer. In honor of National Author’s Day (Nov. 1), I interviewed several California authors to discover what similar traits, if any, they displayed as children. Here are six signs that your child is a budding author:
- You’ve Nicknamed Her “Harriet The Spy”
If your child isolates herself and “spies” on family and friends, no worries. She’s probably gathering source material for her first novel. Local authors Kelly Hayes-Raitt and Kendra Liedle attribute their literary success to their childhood snooping skills. “While riding the bus to school, I took notes on the snippets of conversation I heard around me to incorporate into what I wrote,” says Hayes-Raitt, author of “How to Become a Housesitter: Insider Tips from the HouseSit Diva.”
Similarly, Liedle (“The Best Days of Mabel Gordon”) favored a specific snooping spot: “I loved trees. I’d spend hours up there, cradled in the branches of my favorite tree, eavesdropping and observing the unsuspecting people down below.”
- Your Kid Reads Obscure Books
If your kid enjoys the works of Socrates at age 6, it’s a sign that he’s a writer and a little genius.
“I remember reading ‘Faust’ by Goethe in third grade,” says Susan Shumsky, author of “Divine Revelation.” Meanwhile, Hayes-Raitt says she loved to read so much that she spent her allowance on “a robust dictionary, a thesaurus and Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations.” (This, of course, was pre-internet.)
Not to be outdone, author Avanti Centrae, whose book, “VanOps: The Lost Power,” will be published in 2019, says that she “read the dictionary, the encyclopedia and the Bible front to back.”
That’s quite a feat.
- Your Child Delights in Literary Challenges Like Most Kids Delight in Chocolate Cake
“Sleepy Toes” author Kelli McNeil’s childhood reveals that young writers revel in essay contests and other challenges that most kids eschew. “In the fourth grade, I won a reading challenge at my school, and I could choose any book that I wanted as a prize, so I picked the largest one on display: Bram Stoker’s “Dracula.” I loved it and remember how surprised the staff was that this little girl was insistent about reading such a dense (and scary) book. But I wanted a challenge, something I could sink my teeth into,” says McNeil.
“When I was 9 or 10, I won a contest where the best essay got put into a time capsule at the local science center,” she adds. “They should be opening it in a few years, and I certainly hope my writing has evolved since then.”
- Your Child Exhibits “Odd” Behavior
If your child seems different or exhibits unusual behavior, she’s actually normal – for a writer.
“Anytime I had alone time, I was talking to myself in my head – and not just one voice in my head, but multiple,” says Sally Olivia Kim, author of “The Collagen Glow.” “There was so much variety in the dialogue going on inside my head that the second I sat down, I had to write it all down, and they often became different characters on their own – even if it was just me.”
Kim offers this advice to parents: “You will know if your child is a writer. She will be a little eccentric, a little out there, a little too observant about what is going on around her, and she will be an old soul who can read your character a little too well.”
- Books are Contraband
If your child hides his books as if they’re his dirty little secret, he’s most likely a budding writer.
“As I got older, I continued to read voraciously. I was constantly staying up way past my bedtime – we’re talking one or two in the morning – so I could finish whatever book I was reading at the time,” says Cory Martin, author of “Yoga for Beginners: Simple Yoga Poses to Calm Your Mind and Strengthen Your Body.”
And all voracious readers can relate to the younger version of Shannon Luders-Manuel. “During my youth, I spent many nights poring over books by flashlight before bed,” says Luders-Manuel, author of “Being Biracial: Where Our Secret Worlds Collide: Educators’ Guide.”
- Your Kid Actually Writes Books
You will know a writer by her works. If your kid is already writing books, well, congratulations to your young author!
“By fifth grade I was making my own comic books. I would illustrate and write the stories, but cut each panel and then arrange them on an 8-by-11 piece of paper, Xerox the pages on my mom’s old copier, cut the pages and then fold them so I could staple them in the center like a real comic book,” says “Hill People” author James Tauro. “I sold them for a nickel each.”
“In middle school I wrote a ‘chapter book’ of adventure stories about my parakeets, Bluebird and Feathers,” says Luders-Manuel. “And in my freshman and sophomore year of high school, my English teacher had students write in the journals, following a prompt on the board. Instead of following the prompt, I had ‘special permission’ to work on my memoir.”
Whether your kids exhibit some or all of these signs, be sure to celebrate them. Applaud their efforts. They may not yet know it, but they have words to share with the world.