Raising Writers in Today’s World: A Conversation with Award-Winning Author Kimberly Carlson Aesara
How do young writers navigate in a world with AI, social media, and shifting publishing trends while also preparing for college admissions and planning a successful career? We sat down with award-winning author, writing coach, and parent, Kimberly Carlson Aesara, to discuss what it means to be a writer in today’s world and how parents can encourage aspiring authors. The Write Life: On Kimberly’s Writing JourneyToday, Kimberly is the award-winning author of the novel, Out of the Shadows, a successful writing coach, publisher, and experienced freelance writer, but her artistic roots started in music. “Music was my first love.” However, as an undergrad at Belmont College, Kimberly really immersed herself in reading and writing for the first time. Her love of narrative led her down the writing path and when it came time to decide on a career, she says, “It became clear to me that I was not going to separate my living from my writing.” Since her early twenties, she’s been reading, writing, and teaching, both as a college professor and through her business, The Write Life.
“How I look at the world - move through the world - is through an artist’s heart and soul.”
While pregnant with her first child, she began working on her first novel which took her six years to complete. When asked how she was able to research, write, and complete a novel through two pregnancies, she says “I just made it happen.” Ignoring the advice to sleep when the baby sleeps, Kimberly chose instead to work on her projects and would sometimes enlist the help of her mother to watch the little ones so she could write. Her commitment to her craft paid off, but it wasn’t without a few bumps in the road. “I sent my novel to twenty-five agents, which really wasn’t a lot.” When traditional publishing let her down, she pursued self-publishing, which, looking back, Kimberly says she’s very proud of. She created a small publishing house so she could submit her book to contests and distributors. “It was a lot of work”. Her role as a book promoter and marketer is not unique to her, however. She says that in today’s world, for better or worse, all artists have to do more than just create.
These days, Kimberly is regularly blogging on Medium, coaching other writers, and devoting herself to her creative projects including a Christmas novella and a memoir. She is passionate about writing and artistry and encourages parents to support their children’s creative endeavors.
On AI and Authenticity
The controversy regarding AI is not lost on Kimberly, who tells us she’s seen a lot of conversation about AI both in her online writing circles and in the education system. She asserts that humans are able to think things through on a deeper level than AI and that uniqueness is what’s valuable. “Authenticity is one of my core values,” says Kimberly. “There is nothing intelligent about AI; it’s not thinking, it’s just regurgitating what it’s been told.” Does AI have its place? Maybe. It can help with organization and with “unraveling a thought” but as Kimberly put it, “It’s not capable of being authentic.”
And authenticity is an important theme that ran through our conversation. When discussing self-publishing, Kimberly points out how self-publishing allows writers to retain the rights and creative vision of their work. While in the past self-publishing was seen as “selling yourself short” Kimberly points out that in some ways, it can be one the most profitable ways of starting a career in writing. Writers Should Put Their Work Out ThereSelf-publishing goes hand-in-hand with self-promotion, but Kimberly points out that all artists today will need to put themselves out there, traditionally published or not. “Any writer can build an authentic following and readership.” She believes parents should encourage their children to both create and share their work. For writers who are afraid of their ideas being stolen, Kimberly suggests not sharing work until it's completed. Sharing aspects of their journey, however, is a great way to build up an audience. Medium, Instagram, and TikTok are all places where writers can discuss their process and share links to their finished works, which helps build up the audience they’re hoping for. Writing the College Essay
In a world where everything is sensationalized, supersized, and extreme, Kimberly suggests good writing focuses on the small, vulnerable moments. Students working on their admissions essays should remember the power of story and personal narrative and how small, mundane moments can be the most powerful. The little choices people make add up to who we are and it’s those choices that best “express the human condition.”
Helping Your Teenager Find the Right Topic for Their Admissions Essay
Look through your life’s “photo album”. Help your child remember those small but meaningful moments, like teaching their siblings how to ride a bike or a brief but impactful exchange with a neighbor.
Encourage your child to show their vulnerability and strength through storytelling, which will reflect who they authentically are as a person.
Help them see the importance of individual interactions and everyday choices where they were able to step out for themselves and their own self-interests.
Remind them that big accomplishments and flashy experiences aren’t the most meaningful, or interesting, aspects of their character.
“As we move into an AI world, what all of us will be hungry for is connection - true, true connection.”
Advice To Aspiring Writers (And Their Parents)
Kimberly is the first to admit that building a career in writing isn’t easy but it can be done. Here is her advice for those dedicated to building a writing life:
1. Own it. You don’t pass a test to become a writer; it stems from knowing that it’s the life you want to lead.
2. Keep at it. Dedicate yourself to writing. Be disciplined. She offers this tip for returning to a manuscript: Reread the last sentence before you begin writing. She says in time, you’ll “fall into” the story faster.
3. Read the genre you want to write in. Read journalism if you want to be a journalist; read dystopian novels if you want to write dystopian novels. Read voraciously!
4. Build up a writing portfolio. As you complete pieces such as short stories, articles, blog posts, and novellas, collect them into a writing portfolio. Kimberly suggests finding online magazines and literary journals where you can submit your work so you can gain publishing credentials. “Most universities have literary journals anyone can submit to.”
5. Let go of perfectionism. Writers have to let go of the idea that the writing will never be perfect. The most important thing is just to return to writing regularly and to trust your craft will improve over time.
6. Be present in life. The role of the writer is to document life and you can’t do that if you’re not present and living. “Don’t get too caught up in the page.” Take breaks and go experience life!
For parents of writers and artists, Kimberly says "it’s vital to support and encourage creativity."
“Artists will become the leaders of society. Those who can think outside the box and communicate in different ways - who can truly listen- are fascinating people who will change the world.”
As parents, let’s encourage and listen to our budding writers. When they have something to share, drop what you’re doing and say “Show me”.
We loved getting the chance to learn about Kimberly’s writing practice and hear her thoughts on raising writers of the future. If you want to learn more about Kimberly or read what she's been writing, head over to Medium at The Write Life or follow her on Instagram @KimberlyCarlsonAesera
Finally, we ended our conversation with a quick rapid-fire for Kimberly:
What are you reading?
What is your favorite movie? Dead Poets Society
What is your favorite quote? “You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.” Maya Angelou
To hear LaunchPad4Kids, Founder and CEO, Ashlee Tate’s full conversation with novelist Kimberly Carlson Aesara, head over to our Youtube Channel.