by Hailey Viers, Age 16, Canada
Artwork by Katie King
One of my favourite books just now is Cloaked by Alex Flinn. I like it partly because of the ending. The main character is a teenage shoe repairer whose dream job is to become a designer of expensive shoes. The story’s plot is rather complicated, but in the end, the character reaches his goal. He has his own brand, famous customers, and his shoes are in a high-end boutique. Every time I read the book, I can’t help giving him a mental cheer.
Another book about a teen with a life goal is one called On Pointe by Lorie Ann Grover, which follows a girl who wants to become a professional ballet dancer. The author spares nothing in showing what that entails—years of training, stress over having the right body type, bloody feet, and the risk of it all coming to nothing. Near the end of the novel, the main character auditions for a ballet company but doesn’t make it. She’s a fully qualified dancer, but she is “too tall.”
In my world, there is a cruel irony about comparing Cloaked and On Pointe. They are two different genres, representing two extremes—fantasy success and contemporary fiction failure. The irony is that they are both published books.
It should already be obvious, but I’m a writer—a teenage fantasy writer.
I started writing six or seven years ago and have been turning out dribbles and chunks of stories ever since. I have a huge vocabulary, excellent spelling, and straight A’s in English class. I read a book or two every few days, I took a three-day writing course meant for adults, and I have entered several short story contests.
But I haven’t published a single word.
I have two theories in regard to why that is. I am either not as good at writing as I’ve been lead to believe, or that dogma about “write what you want to write, not what you think will sell” is a complete and utter lie. Because I hate spending my evenings crying my eyes out, I like to think that the problem is the second theory.
According to that theory, I could write about myself and get published. Teenagers with issues are popular right now, and here I am, bemoaning my sad and sorry fate. Meanwhile, most of my writing is mouldering in a portfolio, collecting dust and being ignored.
I tend to ignore the stories I wrote for contests because looking at them is painful. I didn’t even enter them to win money; I didn’t care about the prizes. I entered for the part that said, “Winning entries will be published.” But those stories weren’t good enough. Someone looked at them and scrapped them without so much as a copy-and-paste “thank you” e-mail.
All I’ve ever wanted is my work to be read; that is why I write in the first place. I could write for myself, but then there’s no point. If my writing can’t serve its intended purpose, then why bother? I think this every time I see a list of winning stories for a contest I entered, and none are mine. I cry about 90% of those times.
Despite that, I’m not going to give up writing—it’d be like cutting off something important —but it’s starting to feel like throwing books at a wall and expecting it to let them through. The wall doesn’t care.
I think I could handle it better if I only knew.
Why not me?
Hailey Viers is a 16 year old writer from Canada. Her current project is a two-part fantasy epic partly inspired by an African creation myth.