By Rachel Muenz
James Valitchka’s writing has put him on an ambitious road.
His ninth book, Superheroes Don’t Have Dads 2, is to be released Nov. 3 and focuses on his link to President Barack Obama. Valitchka got to meet and speak with Obama for a few minutes as part of a school trip to Washington on Jan. 19, 2009, the day before the president’s inauguration.
The 14-year-old author says it’s his dream to follow in Obama’s footsteps and become President himself, either that or the Prime Minister of Canada. As a dual citizen of Canada and the U.S., he would be eligible for either position.
That goal might be unrealistic to some, but Valitchka says this is the path he was meant to follow, though he adds he’s intimidated by the challenges he faces at times.
“It is strange because so many people tell me [being Prime Minister or President] is my calling and I feel it sometimes driving in the car with my mom,” he said in an email interview on Oct. 9. “I know that God has a purpose for my life and it’s scary and overwhelming but I have to be obedient.”
Superheroes Don’t Have Dads 2 is the sequel to the book that launched Valitchka’s writing career, Superheroes Don’t Have Dads. Published when he was just eight, that book went on to become a national bestseller and also proved Valitchka as a leader when he went on a tour to encourage literacy and discourage bullying.
Now an established motivational speaker as well as an author, Valitchka has plenty of good advice for young writers. He says his favourite part of writing is the creative aspect and adds writers shouldn’t be afraid of using their imaginations.
“I love escaping from the world as it exists and creating hope, new experiences, better experiences, with a pen or pencil or computer,” says the Appleby College student. “I always tell [other] students, ‘Go for it. Let your imagination run wild!’”
Valitchka says keeping a notebook with them at all times is also very important for young writers to capture that wild imagination.
“When I get the words I can lose them so easily and I don’t remember them later,” says Valitchka, who also runs two organizations that help youth, Stand Up and Speak Out – Voice for Children and Youth and Global Youth United for Success.
For Valitchka, overcoming the fear of sharing those words and finding the time to write are the biggest challenges he faces. But even with schoolwork, sports and hanging out with family and friends he still makes time to write for half an hour each day.
When he gets stuck with his writing, Valitchka says he takes time away from the problem, like he does with any other.
“I take a day off and usually in a quiet time a voice will speak to me and it is so beautiful I have to write it and those are always the best parts of the story,” he says. “When we are still we hear God’s voice and he is the best storyteller in the world.”
Writing in your own voice, no matter what editors or other people might say is also important for young writers, Valitchka adds. But he also points out that, although writing is fun, it’s not something people tend to make money doing.
“You have to be very realistic about a career in writing,” Valitchka says. “It doesn’t pay the bills.”
At the same time, he says staying positive is important, especially for young writers, who often aren’t taken seriously.
“You have to know who you are and believe in yourself and others,” Valitchka says. “When I’m faced with negativity, I say, ‘Nice to meet you, take care’ and I’m gone.”
As far as the writing process goes, the young author says he writes about what he’s experienced but also uses his imagination. He says he both plans and improvises when writing.
“For essays, I use an essay outline,” Valitchka says. “For story writing, I use my heart.”
However, he says he used more structure and planning when writing Superheroes Don’t Have Dads 2 because it is a sequel. He’s also working on another book, Mischievous Maiya, about his four-year-old sister.
Although being a world leader is Valitchka’s long-term career plan, he says he’ll still keep writing even once he’s achieved his goal.
“I will always write because that is how I connect with others and that is very important to me,” says Valitchka. “If God gives me a story, He expects me to do something with it and about it.”
It’s not mine, it belongs to the universe.”