[My GenCon report by way of how I spent my summer vacation aka a long post]

“Mr. Broaddus, do you have any interning opportunities?”

Thus enters Bella, one of my (former) 8th graders who went through my creative writing club at the middle school who wrote me a week after graduation. I said “no,” but wanted to hear her thinking. When I met with her and her mom, her mom told me that though she tried to talk her out of it, her daughter was determined to be a writer. If that was the case, she needed to start networking now. Between her boldness in asking and her clear goals, I said yes.

We’ve had a whirlwind summer involving a reading list (Nnedi Okorafor’s Binti, The Autobiography of Malcolm X, and Nick Mamatas’ Starve Better), a dialogue seminar, writing through the lens of social activism (a project I am doing with the Kheprw Institute),

She shadowed me through project development, generating income streams, and learning the business side of a writing career (granted, I had to explain that calling up a publisher and hurling insults at one another is only the special submission guidelines between me and Jason Sizemore). We’re also writing a story together which is an easy way for me to teach the finer points of character development, plotting, deepening themes, conflict, and revision. Which means she’ll end up with a pro credit, too.

One of the things about my writing career is that I certainly didn’t get here by myself as I think of the folks who mentored me along the way and became friends (Kelly Link, Gary A. BraunbeckByron Kane, and so many more) and those who introduced me around at my first con (Wayne Allen Sallee). Since she wanted to network, her intern “graduation” was doing GenCon with me.

Intern Bella (about my red outfit): “Mr. Broaddus, it’s hard to take you seriously when you look like you should top a sundae.”

With one joke, she stole all my friends at GenCon. There’s a great community of folks who go into making the Writers Symposium such a wonderful experience (Kelly SwailsJerry GordonLucien SoulbanMonica ValentinelliMax GladstoneScott LynchTanya DePass, and so many more). But I wanted to highlight a few who made me look like a genius in retrospect by surrounding Bella with role models of powerful women:

Alethea Kontis – who basically took Bella under her wing and displayed the finer aspects of authorial badassery (Bella, like most young people, isn’t on Facebook, so I can say badass).

Melanie Meadors – who fielded all of her questions about being a publisher and editor.

Sarah Wishnevsky Lynch – who gave such a wonderful talk about the importance of resilience that I wanted to bottle it up and spray myself with it every morning.

Elizabeth Vaughan – who besides being a wonderful example of generosity, gave Bella the opportunity to see how a trusted community of peers can speak into each others’ lives with advice (even it if’s uncomfortable truths), support, and accountability.

Jaym Gates – who is not only the editor for the story Bella and I are working on, but spent time answering all of her questions and offering long term career advice.

Toiya K. Finley – whose expertise in gaming basically LEFT A (SOON TO BE) HIGH SCHOOL FRESHMAN SPEECHLESS.

Me: We’re like Batman and (very insecure) Robin.
Bella the Intern: It’s okay, Mr. Broaddus. One day you’ll be Batman. #shesgotjokes

I’m kind of spoiled by my experience with interns. And while Bella has already declared that any future intern of mine works for her, I remind each of them that we’re always in relationship (which is why Rodney Carlstrom is Intern Emeritus). As for her thoughts on me, I overheard her say this to another writer friend of mine: “He never stops teaching.” And that’s what made my summer.

[And I would have posted this yesterday, but Bella wanted approval. Something about one of my lessons about controlling your narrative.]