Olivia Newport stack of books“I want to be an author for my career.”

Mind you, I’d only met this nine-year-old boy a few minutes earlier and he had no idea what I do.

But we shared an aspiration, and he was the proverbial breath of fresh air for me that evening. He just loves books so much that he can’t help talking about them.

I asked a few simple questions about why he wanted to be an author, and it was like turning on a faucet. He answered with a spray of words I could hardly keep up with. When I told him I was an author and was going to have some books published, he picked up his plate of pie and moved six feet closer to me. The questions came fast and furious.

I answered them in the simplest language I could, but it was clear to me that what he really wants to be is a publisher. He just doesn’t know that lingo. He loves books. In a serious way. He loves reading them. He loves writing them (he’s working on an autobiography). He loves choosing just the right word. He’s fascinated with how books get illustrated, who decides what goes on the cover, the binding process, who chooses which stories will be made into books, who decides how much they should cost, what you have to do to get a book in a library.

His dream is to make a book that a library would pick.

More recently I had an opportunity to show him the cover of The Pursuit of Lucy Banning. The first thing he said was, “Is it going to be made into a movie?” (From his lips to the big screen, please, God.)

We’ve had several fascinating conversations, and I love the expression in his face when he talks about books, the intensity of his pursuit of information, his utter resolve. But the truth is, I don’t know what the publishing industry will look like in fifteen or twenty years when he is old enough to engage in a career. No one seems certain what it’s going to look like a year from now. How should he prepare to be a writer or publisher in the generation he may help lead?

Who knows?

Nevertheless, I look for ways to encourage his interest in books, writing, and publishing. I hope our culture is not going to give up on well-told story, sharing life in words, or communicating with intentionality and excellence.

And it warms my heart to know that this fire burns in yet another generation.

• Other than learning to write well, what advice would you give to a child who wants to be an author?