Paint Your Fork: Writing Advice from Children

In April, I asked 15 writers from across the genres to share some of the best and worst writing advice they’d received.  The result was “Turning Loose the Tiger” and a few other posts.  Last month, John DeNardo and the kind folks at SFSignal conducted a Mind Meld in which they asked speculative fiction authors to share the best writing advice they’d received.

Both of these projects were intended to benefit younger writers in general and the students at Shared Worlds 2010 in particular, but each contains material that experienced writers could benefit from, too.

This week, my daughter Molly turned seven.  She is my inspiration and my co-conspirator in many artistic adventures.  Each day, she models the creative life with bouts of extreme pretend, lavishly colored paintings, and character-driven stories so complex that they require a compendium.

Molly also loves to give me advice – lots and lots of advice.  Her advice is often practical, such as “Daddy, stories should be interesting!”  And sometimes her wisdom is downright surreal.  For instance, yesterday I was editing at the kitchen table and Molly said, “You may want to paint that fork.” There were no forks on the table or in the article I was revising. Molly nodded her head sagely.  I’m still trying to figure out what she meant.

So, I’m asking that readers answer the following question:

What writing advice have you received from a child?  And how did you use the advice in your writing?

Use the comment section below.  Answer as briefly or extensively as you like.  Be as serious or as playful as you like.  And be sure to let us know a little something about you and the child giving you the advice, too.


Jeremy L. C. Jones is a freelance writer, editor, and teacher.  Jones is a frequent contributor to Clarkesworld Magazine.  He teaches at Wofford College and Montessori Academy in Spartanburg, SC.  He is also the director of Shared Worlds, a creative writing and world-building camp for teenagers that he and Jeff VanderMeer designed in 2006.

2 thoughts on “Paint Your Fork: Writing Advice from Children

  1. My kids don't give me much advice. I did give Thirdling, my youngest (6), a pb manuscript to read once. She read the whole thing with earnest concentration and when I asked her what she thought of it, she said "You wrote 'of' here, Mommy. I think you meant 'if.' The rest is ok."

    Middlekid (who is 11) commented on how good it was that there was a rubbish bin in my "office," (i.e., the garden shed-….

    Prima, the eldest, has even less patience than I have with rejections. She says "Make them publish you, Mom! You're good!" Sweet, but futile.

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