Earlier this month, I went to a writer's camp at a university with a large number of other young writers. Of course, since the camp director wanted to persuade us to go to the university, they held a college panel with several graduates of the college, including an editor of a mildly famous magazine of the state the college was located in.
Everything was going okay (although the majority of the people in the room were either too tired to properly focus on the presentation, or choosing not to focus on it because they wanted to play on their phones, read a book or write in a notebook instead) but then the editor started talking. Well, he'd actually been saying vaguely annoying and rude things and cutting off the other panelists for the majority of the presentation, but this was when the presentation really went downhill.
The other panelists, as well as the program director, were evidently uncomfortable, and I even saw one of his co-panelists roll her eyes at his comment. This entire diatribe against young writers had been in response to a question from one of my friends, and after his speech, he looked at the crowd and said "Any more questions?"
If there's one thing you should know about me, it's that I don't stand for people being rude to me or my friends when there's something I can do about it without putting myself in danger or a bad situation where I will very much not endear myself to a person with power over me. Everyone else in the audience was silent, at least partially because of the comment the editor had just made about young writers.
So I decided to stand up to him, with the assumption that I would likely never see him again in my life. My "question" wasn't really a question, more a challenge phrased as one.
Me: So why do you think that young writers don't have anything meaningful to say?
Him: *startled to be challenged* Well, I just don't think they have much experience. And I just said most. Not all. What do YOU have that would be a meaningful thing to write about?
He looked surprised. Shocked, more. Maybe it was that I actually had a meaningful story, or maybe it was that he hadn't been expecting anyone to challenge him. Writers tend to be introverts, after all. Or at least shy.
He attempted to recover, telling me that he'd be very interested in reading a piece about my "meaningful story" and asking the group who thought they had a story like that.
About half tentatively raised their hands, and I'm sure more would've if he weren't such an aggressive presence
The funny thing was, later, the program co-director (also a writer) actually told me that she was so glad I'd stood up like that, and I had several conversations with other young writers at the program who wanted to congratulate me and/or lament abut how much of a jerk he was, and offer their reasons why teenagers could write about meaningful things.
And at the closing statements for the program, the co-director told all of us to be very careful when taking writing advice to heart, especially when it undermines the competence of young writers. Everyone knew exactly what she was talking about, and for a group of mostly reserved and quiet people, she received quite the round of applause.
The truth is, although we may not be grappling with a life-altering decision, or have experienced something that would be the basis of the plot of the Next Great American Novel, we're all people. We live, we experience things like friendships, first love, first job or just experiences that help us grow and change as people. After all, there's an entire genre dedicated to writing for and about teenagers, and the subset of New Adult.
How's that for meaning?