Ten-year-old Leo Billante, Grade 4, discovered his love of writing three years ago, when he wrote and illustrated a thrilling five-page graphic novel about the downfall of bad guy Dr Evil and his army of robots, defeated by Leo himself and his four best friends.
Right now, Leo is an enthusiastic participant in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) at school, where the aim is to produce a novel in a month by writing a little every day. His science fiction novel, John Grant and the Strange Invasion, is available from Amazon. “It’s about three 14-year-old friends who start off just having a normal day,” he says. “But then aliens invade the world and cause massive destruction, and the friends have to fight them. I know a little about aliens and a little about dimensions in space, but that’s not so important – it’s a story, not science.”
This year in class, he was also tasked with writing a realistic fiction story about a family member’s migration experience. He chose to write about his paternal great-grandfather who emigrated from Sicily to America in the early 1920s. He enjoyed interviewing his grandfather and learning about family members who, until then, had just been names.
Inspiration doesn’t always arrive, he says – but that’s no reason to stop writing. “Sometimes writing comes easily, and sometimes it’s harder. It’s easier when I have a plan. But when I’m stuck and have to figure out what I’m going to put, I just sit and think. When it’s easy, I feel like I just know what I’m doing.”
And he’s committed to doing whatever it takes to follow a career in writing. “It takes dedication to write well, and I think I have it,” he says. “Maybe, after I’ve written lots of not-so-good stories, I’ll write one that’s really good.
“Sometimes all you need to write a story is to read something and be inspired. You’re the writer. You make the story. It’s not like making a movie, where you need all this equipment. You just need a pen and paper, and no one can tell you what to do.”