BARCELONA, MOBILE WORLD CONGRESS 2012 — One of the things that first inspired me to be a professional writer was sharing my early fiction experiments as a 10 year old on the discussion boards of the old dial-up service, Prodigy. The instantaneous feedback, the helpful advice, the suggestions from other people about what should happen next to my character (a monster-killing, Nazi-loathing private dick named Dr. Crypt, a name which I still use as my Twitter handle): all of this was a formative experience for me, and without it, I never would have dared to dream that someday, I would make my living putting words down on paper.
Prodigy’s bulletin boards aren’t around anymore, but a new start up is trying to encourage kids and teenagers to write the same way. The company’s called Movellas, and it’s taking the concepts of Twitter, LiveJournal, Kickstarter and the Kindle self-publishing platform to help identify and nurture the next Stephanie Mayer or Stephen King when he or she is still a kid. And, of course, they have an app for that.
Movellas originally started in Denmark as a much different kind of site, aimed at letting users write cell phone novels, or books entirely via SMS. It didn’t take long for that idea to sputter out, but pretty soon, Movellas had struck on a better one.
The entire idea, according to Movella’s product director Christian Schlosser, is to empower kids to write by fostering a supportive community that can crowdsource not just the discovery but the nurturing of nascent literary talent.
Using the site, kids and teenagers can not only share fiction, but read other people’s stories, exchange comments, participate in online writing workshops, and more.
It’s a fantastic idea. So much about writing comes from just putting words to paper, of getting over your aversion to letting people see your work, knowing how to take and act upon criticism, and reading what other people are doing. Movellas is basically an online social network dedicated to just one thing: fostering young literary talent.
Of course, Movella’s not doing this for nothing. Eventually, they hope the community they’ve fostered will become an engine that will allow them to identify bestsellers… and make a cut off of it.
“Look at Christopher Paolin’s Eragon,” said Movella’s Schlosser. “It was written by a fifteen year old kid, and no one took it seriously until it was discovered entirely by accident, and it became this huge bestseller. There’s just so many books in the slushpile, the chances of getting noticed by a big publisher, especially if you’re inexperienced, is almost none.”
Although Movellas hasn’t done so yet, they envision eventually making an Apple-like 70/30 cut off of young authors by playing Maxwell Perkins to them, finding gem-in-the-rough writers and nurturing them into literary greats.
But what about adults? Movellas says that there’s nothing stopping adults from signing up, but right now, the critical mass is with teenagers, writing up fan fiction or their own sparkling vampire romance novels.
Movellas is still a small site, but they’ve got a free iPhone app that allows you to read thousands of stories from some truly talented teenage authors, with the ability to write stories on your iPhone or iPad coming in version 2.0. If you believe in supporting kids in the art of story writing — and you should! — it’s a fantastic service.