WOODBINE – When she was just 13 years old, Woodbine local Naomi King tried to write a novel in just a month. She hoped to write 50,000 words between Nov. 1 and Nov. 30, but such a thing proved too ambitious.
Several years later, she cracked the code. Now, she is a senior in high school and has published three novels that circulate the county libraries.
Naomi’s first stab at novel writing took place as part of “National Novel Writing Month,” a nonprofit organization that encourages young authors to discover the joy of fast-paced writing each November.
King, who is home-schooled, said she would not have had the time, nor the energy, to try such a thing without being home-schooled and without the support of her mother, Crystal King.
Crystal King thought that the national challenge would fit into Naomi King’s curriculum.
“It’s a crazy challenge. I told her to put a pause on other language arts for that month,” Crystal King, who is also her daughter’s teacher, said.
“Home schooling allowed me to make this my focus,” Naomi King said, thankful for the chance her mother afforded her.
She tried the challenge again each year, at 14, 15, 16, and 17 years old. At 18, she finally wrote a 50,000-word novel in a month.
Although it took her many years to reach that point, the momentum spurred by the challenge always spilled past November. Her first published novel, “Raven Rose,” came out of the first challenge she ever tried. It just took another 10 months to finish.
Like many young authors, Naomi King chose to self-publish “Raven Rose” through Amazon. Its publication was the first time a wider audience had access to her work.
“I was so nervous about it at first,” she said.
“Once it’s out there, anyone can tell you anything about it, but I got a lot of really positive feedback… It gave me a lot of confidence early on to say, ‘Maybe I’m not so bad at this,’” she added.
Naomi King finds support and friendship online when she is deep in the writing trenches.
“I gained a lot of confidence by meeting other teen authors online,” she said, noting that it was hard to find like-minded young people in the county. She bounces ideas off her online friends and finds encouragement from teens who also endure the throes of writing.
Another confidence boost came from a random visit to the Woodbine Library. She strolled in one very ordinary afternoon and was greeted by a prominent display of her books; somebody at the library noticed her work and printed out a sign that read: “Introducing Naomi King, a local teen author.”
Naomi speculates that a lot of people who bought her first book didn’t really read it and bought it just to support her, but her second novel, “The Lights of Isarn,” brought in a lot of bright-eyed younger fans. She was surprised at the small-scale hit it became.
“A lot of middle-school-aged kids were so excited about my books,” she said. “They wanted to talk with me about my work, and it was so cute and so fun. I didn’t think kids so young would be interested in what I was writing.”
Perhaps these readers were brought in by the upbeat tone of her books, which contrasts the common existential and humanist-musings of other science-fiction works.
This lighter mood is intentional; Naomi King remembered being exhausted by all the bleakness in the books she read as a kid.
She said, “When I was younger, I felt like nearly every book I read was dark and depressing and heavy, and I wanted to write something that wasn’t like that… It’s not like I put my religion in there, but there are strokes and themes of hope.”
Naomi hopes that her books, and the sweat she puts into them, will inspire local authors to find their voices. She hopes to land a proper publishing deal someday, but, in the meantime, she teaches writing classes to several of her seven siblings.
Are you a teen author? Do you know anyone with a fascinating local story? Reach out to the author, Collin Hall, at email@example.com.