On the cusp of ten years down this writing path, I'd almost forgotten the joy you find yourself in. A tiny diner in an even smaller town. Tentative forays into the written word, sitting amongst other beginning writers. Experimenting and creating, blissfully ignorant of the "wrongs", everything sounding right. Creating each day for an audience who hangs on your every word, your daily installment as addictive as any true high shared in the spirit of friendship.
The days of an audience held rapt by your stories won't last. Hold on to the intoxication of creation. Ration it for the days and months where you alone live with the words, not knowing if they resonate with truth and vitality or lay mediocre, unworthy of the space in which they occupy.
The greatest asset you'll acquire on the journey is the company you'll meet along the way. Nurture their ideas and words, as they have done yours. No one quite understands the pastimes of your mind like other writers. Don't lose touch. Regret can be a bitter pill.
Value truth. Forget the judgements of a few and strive to find realism and rawness in the human condition. Don't think about your great Aunt sitting down one day to read it. She has much richer text to draw from at the convent than your words. Honesty is the only real path to good writing.
Don't let your page count become a casualty of your commitment to writerly pursuits. Engaging in the business of behaving like a writer does not certify you as one. The only litmus for being a writer is writing.
Just as I now struggle to add "author" to my vernacular, don't hesitate to add writer to yours. The mere pursuit of capturing language and translating thoughts to words for others to feel and see is the only criteria needed.
The harsh criticisms--in particular, the one hemorrhaging red ink you'll encounter on a frigid night in Memphis--are necessary. More than that, they were right. Be angry, then accept it as the gift you're given. One day that bloodshed will become award-winning.
Forget the young adult novel. It'll be covered with more intensity and on a grander scale than you can possibly imagine; after which, the world will be over saturated on the idea. Cut your losses and move on.
When someone you believe to be an expert says, "Greater talent could not pull this idea off," don't listen. Write it anyway.
Above all, don't give up. You won't find what you're striving for in the time that separates us, but without your road ahead, there would be no success in tomorrow for me.