I am a young adult librarian and wanna-be author. This is my journey from anonymous writer to a published superstar (or something like that…)!
I first decided I wanted to be a writer in 8th grade. I’d always written stories, but before then I had really wanted to be an artist or illustrator. My 8th grade English teacher, Mrs. Loomis, had a creative writing unit, and her positive feedback made me realize how much I wrote and that I had a talent for it.
Most of my first stories were ghost stories and horror stories heavily influenced by authors like Christopher Pike, R.L. Stine, L.J. Smith, and V.C. Andrews. Throughout high school most of my stories involved a lot of murder and other insanity.
In my senior of high school, I had a few poems published, and once I went on to college I began to publish short stories as well. One of my goals during college, where I minored in creative writing, was to finish a novel by the time I graduated. I wrote a few novellas (More to Tell & Gifted), but the full-length novel didn’t happen.
After I graduated, and began working, I opened a five-subject notebook and decided I would keep writing until the notebook was filled. That story eventually became Bethany Caleb.
Thrilled at finally having completed a novel, I had this idea that I would write a series of novels all based in the same high school. There was one about the cheerleaders (The Horizontal Ladder) and one about the goth kids (Seven Minutes to Midnight). I turned many of the deleted scenes from Bethany Caleb into the novel The Art Kids.
At this point I was working overnights at a group home for kids in state custody, and spent most of my time at work writing. I managed to write another novel not related to those set in that particular high school, The Promise. This novel took the main character from More to Tell and plopped her into a nice horse story.
When I left my job working overnights to start grad school for my MLIS degree, I began trying to write my first werewolf novel. I had a rough time of it, until I discovered that several of my coworkers participated in an event called Nanowrimo. I signed up and cranked out a full first draft of The Wolven: Animal Nature. The year after that, it was a ghost story called The Abandoned. The next year, I finally got around to writing Seven Minutes to Midnight.
In 2009 I started writing my first novel outside of Nanowrimo in years, Hitchhikers. I spent that year’s Nanowrimo (The Nostradamus Project) wishing I was working on Hitchhikers, but I would win my fifth (Return to Ravenwood Manor) and sixth (Cabin Fever) Nanowrimos before completing Hitchhikers. Many Nanowrimos later, here I am.
My first attempts to get any of my novels published began with The Horizontal Ladder. I submitted mostly to publishers and was 100% rejected. I read a bit more about the publishing industry and queried agents for Bethany Caleb and The Art Kids with no luck. Three years later I sent out queries for The Abandoned and Seven Minutes to Midnight and received a few requests for the manuscripts, but was ultimately rejected. During this period I also had two short stories published in anthologies; I also submitted a different novel each year to the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest with no luck. Hitchhikers, however, made it through several rounds of the competition, and my queries afterward received some interest. Still, no luck. I also began querying for The Art Kids again. Overall I receieved well over 100 rejections for my work.
At this point I truly wanted to write a sequel to Hitchhikers, but without a traditional publisher it felt futile to continue writing. My solution was to enter the new world of self-publishing. I did my research, and I also did some soul searching. Why did I want my work published? Was it for financial success? For literary acclaim? Largely what I wanted was for people to read my work. So, I published Bethany Caleb and The Art Kids via Kindle Direct Publishing and Createspace. Later I also published Hitchhikers and the rest of the Wolf Point series, using Smashwords in addition to KDP and Createspace.
After self-publishing two standalones, a four-book series (last Wolf Point book in the works right now!), and a three-novella prequel series, I have learned a lot about my work ethic as a writer and about my ability (or lack thereof) to market myself. I had a long break from writing original fiction and wrote mostly fanfiction for over a year, which was a fun escape and taught me even more about my writing style. Eventually, however, I returned to original fiction and realized this is what I love doing. Invigorated, I joined SCBWI (Society for Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators) and a critique group, and these have driven me to work even harder at my craft.
I won’t give up on my dream of breaking into traditional publishing. But as long as I’m writing, I am happy.