No matter what you are writing, if it is high quality and makes an emotional connection, the work will find an audience, author and Power of the Pen alum Justin A. Reynolds told the Solon Middle School Power of the Pen team at its December 14, 2020, meeting. He says that the most effective authors explore questions about life’s meaning: “Why are we here? What are we doing? What is the best way to live?”
Justin stopped in for a Zoom chat at the invitation of Solon coach Emilie Macek, who is also a former Power of the Pen writer. Emilie and Justin connected after the virtual National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) annual conference in November 2020. In one of his panel discussions at the conference, Justin talked about the influence of Power of the Pen on his writing. Emilie reached out over Instagram, and Justin was thrilled to meet the Solon team.
Connecting With Other Writers
“Power of the Pen has a special place in my heart,” Justin said. As a member of the Elyria Westwood Middle School team, Justin loved the camaraderie, sense of fun, and serious competition in Power of the Pen. His two stints at the state tournament, which was then held at Denison University, were his first trips away from family and a chance to meet other young authors from throughout the state.
The lessons of Power of Pen have stayed with him, particularly the practice of writing a complete story in just 40 minutes. “Learning to write, problem solve, think critically – Power of the Pen exemplifies all of that,” he told the Solon team. “You have to process information quickly and dispense it on the page in a short time.” Such skills prove invaluable in any field.
Pursuing a Writing Career
Justin didn’t go straight from Power of the Pen into his writing career. He started out as an engineering undergraduate and NASA intern, but ultimately decided to follow his passion for writing. He changed majors and colleges and moved to New York City to “chase writers” that he wanted to learn from. A series of jobs from pest control operator to carpet flooring installer followed, as he continued to develop his craft.
A Twitter contest led to the publication of his first novel, Opposite of Always. He has since published a second novel, Early Departures, with new projects including a graphic novel, middle grade series, and screenplays on the way. Twelve- to thirteen-hour writing days are typical.
Trusting Your Own Voice
His best advice to young authors is to trust their own voice and not try to emulate someone else. “Your voice is unique, special, necessary, and urgent,” he said. “We will all write a different story even if we live the same circumstances at the same time. No one can tell a story like you do.”
Learn more about Justin and his writing at https://www.justinareynolds.com/.