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Friday, October 1, 2010

Introducing Caleb Breakey and his teen writers web site

I met Caleb at the Greater Philadelphia Christian Writers Conference in August. He and I share a common interest in that I am editing a magazine for kids by kids and he has started a web site for teen writers. It is my pleasure to welcome Caleb to “I Want to be Published…But I’m Just a Kid!”
Caleb, tell us about your writing history.

When I was 17, just getting my feet wet in community college English, I required a tutor to write a one-paragraph summary. That marks the beginning of my writing journey, which now includes a degree in journalism, a season spent covering the New York Yankees, articles in the Seattle Times and Seattle Post-Intelligencer, and graduate certificates from the Christian Writers Guild’s Journeyman and Craftsman Courses (January, 2011). What a ride it’s been.

In late 2008, after listening to Ted Dekker’s Circle Trilogy (now Circle Series), I sat down to write the first sentence of a novel I titled Banned. It now finds its home in your friendly neighborhood recycling outfit.

I then wrote my second novel under the guidance of a professional editor, who showed me exactly what I needed to improve in my writing. If you taped the list to a basketball hoop, it would extend to the ground and form a crumpled lump. But red ink excited me. I had a roadmap to success! All I needed to do was harness POV, RUE, characterization, plot, dialogue, action, description, etc.

Sounds a little daunting now, but I’ve been having a blast honing and defining my craftsmanship ever since.

Are you published?

I’m getting closer every day with my second and third novels. Agents and publishers are considering my work this very day.

Do you follow a writing schedule?
Whether for work or for play, I write every day. “Writing is a muscle,” a wonderful friend and editor once told me. That advice has stuck with me the way a climactic scene in a favorite novel does.

What do you see as the most difficult aspect of writing to learn?
Balance. Every aspect of writing contains a good deal permanency, but also a good deal of soft clay.

When I first started going through my library of writing books (about 65 now), I took each bit of advice seriously, including “Show Don’t Tell.” Now my greatest weakness is withholding too much information from the reader—something I’m laboring to correct.

What does your web site offer teen writers?

My web site features two Teen Writers per week. On the first day, I post their work, an audio reading of their writing, and an interview centered on them. On the second day, I post a video blog about their work. And on the third day I post an Audio Edit.

I also host contests and I’m just about to start featuring Podcasts. With feedback from the site’s faithful readers, the possibilities for this web site are endless. I’m honored that teens are letting me be a part of their creative journey.

Give us a brief overview of the submission process to the critiquing feature of your web site.
I ask writers to send me 250-300 words of their writing—chapter, essay, poem, devotional, etc.—along with their answers to eight interview questions (which are sent to caleb@calebbreakey.com).

With submissions rising, I created a fast track for teens to get their page critiqued. For every Full Sandwich comment they post on the work of other Teen Writers—meaning a word of encouragement, followed by a word of constructive feedback, followed by a closing thought of encouragement—I bump their name up the Page Critique Ladder. Contest participation is another way to jump the ladder.

Do you feel you have the means to help teen writers find a market for their work?
I can certainly help. I attend a handful of Writers Conferences every year and just recently was approached about teaching a workshop at one. My connections to editors, agents, and authors are growing, and I’m not shy about championing the work of Teen Writers.

How about a few just-for-fun questions. What is your favorite pastime outside of writing?

Rock Band, anyone? I’ve been known for getting into songs with a gusto more suitable for a break dancer, and I’ve been warned to never again use a coffee table as a platform. What can I say? I’m passionate. =)

I’m also a lover of improve. My wonderful wife and sister-in-laws often create scenarios for me to act out, and it usually ends up with all of us falling on the floor.

And for all those competitors out there, I love playing baseball, softball, basketball and football. I wish I could round up all the Teen Writers at www.calebbreakey.com for a good game of kick ball or something.

What was your favorite subject in school?
Up until college? Probably Legos, G.I. Joes, and building forts. My creativity didn’t find the wonderful outlet of writing until my 17th year, so action figures and forts it was.

What kind of music do you like?

Being a man of faith, I gravitate toward music that magnifies the hope thriving inside me—bands such as Casting Crowns, Brandon Heath, and Mercy Me. I also get onto weird music kicks (much to wife’s chagrin). Just this past year I started writing to Mozart and Beethoven and other classical artists. I think they’re brilliant.

Favorite flavor of ice cream?

Neapolitan, because I’ve always called it Napoleon.
I’m also a big fan of Strawberry Cheesecake and Cookies & Cream.

Thank you, Caleb! It's been fun getting to know a little more about you. I hope teen writers find their way to your site and take advantage of all you have to offer.

Happy writing!

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