by Amna Gillani, Age 15, Pakistan
Paulo Coelho once said:
“…when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”
In Pakistan, junior authors are often discouraged from following their passion, both by elders and by lack of opportunities. However, dedicated writers can find opportunities and overcome the struggle to realize their dreams.
It is through the enthusiasm of junior authors that Pakistan, where initially writing was considered frivolous, is now home to many opportunities like essay, poetry, and letter writing contests. As well, those unsatisfied by once a year contests can now exploit the platform provided by magazines. Some people have even created their own opportunities by self-publishing their books. Writing is prospering, and as opportunities increase, more and more young people are starting to take an interest.
Still, however, aspiring writers face many hurdles. Apart from inner dragons (like Polly’s Scrum in Polly Wants to Be a Writer), some are discouraged by their close relatives. Believing writing to be frivolous, many people advise against it. It is, they argue, not practical to pursue writing as a career option. Not taken seriously, many junior authors stop writing. Even if they persevere, they face a sad lack of opportunities. There are many contributors but only a few magazines. Many writers are disappointed. The writing opportunities that are present are only for adults. Much of the writing is political, so junior authors do not have an interest in it. After all, they do not have the experience required. However, some people have realized that it is unfair for junior writers to compete against adults with vast experience and are providing opportunities for their specific age group in the form of contests.
Many writing contests are accessible in Pakistan. They are only for young people, so every junior author should participate in them. Not only do they provide opportunities to write but also teach skills like proof-reading and editing as you have to submit your best work. These are essential to be a good writer. A recent initiative, Haiku Mushaira, caters for poets who are unsure of their ability. Experts teach the art of Haiku writing and prepare students to write their own verses. This builds confidence as junior authors read their work in a gathering of renowned poets.
It is not only a group of seasoned writers who are working on improving the literary scene for the youth, but the government of Pakistan has also realized the importance of encouraging budding writers through the Annual Pakistan Post Letter Writing Competition. Those who are ready to take the next step and participate in an international contest should know that Laura Thomas holds a annual, free-to-enter competitions in short stories and poetry for ages 9 to 21. These contests are popular amongst junior authors because they only participate against their own age group: 9-11, 12-14, 15-17, or 18-21.
However, some junior authors have greater aspirations. For them, writing contests are not enough, as only one piece can be submitted during the year. In order to get their work published, they are taking the world by storm and flooding the opportunities meant for adults. Magazines like Us and Young World accept contributions from teens and adults. Junior authors who contribute and get successfully published get paid for their articles. However, unpublished work does not get feedback. Junior authors seeking to improve their skills should see Laura Thomas’s jaBlog! They give feedback on work that isn’t accepted, helping all contributors improve.
Through self-publishing websites, junior authors have a greater chance of getting published than through the traditional method. Recently, a junior author was published by Amazon, defying the long-held belief that writing books is a job meant for adults. Many students now aspire to be writers, and it can be hoped that through their efforts, writing will have a bright future in Pakistan.
Despite drawbacks, there are many writing opportunities. If junior authors persist in their struggle, opportunities will keep increasing, and the world will be forced to recognize their worth. The tides are turning, but the direction depends on the attitude of junior authors. It depends on whether or not they choose to pursue their dream or get swayed by the attitude of the world.
Amna Gillani is a 15 year old Pakistani girl who is trying to overcome hurdles on the way to getting published. You can see her blog here.