by Esme Addison
It’s been such a long time since I read The Outsiders. But I remember reading it in middle school, probably sixth grade, and just being blown away by the story. I re-read the story just like a little kid watches his favorite cartoon over and over again. And each time I read it, I cried in all the same places.
I can’t even remember all of the plot points anymore, except what happens to Johnny (no spoilers!). I do remember the poem, Nothing Gold Can Stay by Robert Frost. It was the first poem I wanted to memorize. I recall staring at myself mournfully in the mirror and reciting the solemn words as only an angsty pre-teen can do. In fact, it’s the only poem I ever committed to memory, and I still remember it to this today!
Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief.
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.
But the most important thing about that book for me was the fact that the writer was a teenager. When I discovered that fact , when I discussed this with my father… I realized that I wanted to write books professionally too. Even today in the publishing industry it’s not typical for teenagers to write bestselling novels, but it can happen. And my twelve-year-old self never forgot that a young adult had written a novel. Despite the amazing story that The Outsiders was and is (and also Tex, and Rumble Fish and That Was Then, This Is Now) my takeaway was that if she could do it, I could do it.
That was the moment when I decided, that one day I’d be a published novelist.
You’d think that immediately after this declaration, I would’ve set to writing a book and finding an agent, but my route to becoming a published author was more circuitous than that. And I was not published as a teenager like my author-hero SE Hinton was. But I did begin to seriously practice the craft of writing (which is what any writer serious about getting published needs to do).
When I was in high school I created a young adult series about teen celebrities: actors and models. I wrote the first two books in the series before I ditched the idea. And then I wrote a young adult star-crossed romance. During this time, I’d go to the library and check out and read all the books on how to write a novel, develop characters, how to write natural dialogue, etc. I could find. And then I’d go back and re-edit the novels I’d written. Just for fun.
I still didn’t know anything about the business side of writing, no clue what a literary agent was or why I might need one, and probably no idea that the publishing industry was located in New York City. I just had fun writing and learning the craft of writing. I never had critique partners or beta readers – who knows if the books were any good! At least I thought they were because I was – and I still – write the story I want to read, so I was amusing myself while learning some of the basics of writing.
Thank goodness self-publishing wasn’t a thing back then, because if it was, I’d probably have published my amateur-hour, never-been-read-by-anyone book on Amazon, instead of shoving them in a drawer (which I could do, since they were actual stacks of paper) and letting them collect dust as first, second and sometimes third practice novels should.
At any rate, all of that practice writing and reading about the craft of writing would eventually serve me well, but I still had a long way to go from being a teenager who carried her copy of The Outsiders with her everywhere she went to becoming a published author.