One of the best and most chilling moments of the YALLFest last week was a small snippet of a story shared by author Sarah J. Maas on one of the many author panels I listened in on. Someone had asked the question, “What was the moment when you felt like you’d really made it as an author?” and Sarah answered with a cute retelling of the first ever time she saw her book in a bookstore. Her husband taped her blubbering tears and overexcited squeals.
I have to admit that throughout most of those author panels I felt very small and very overwhelmed. The thought “How do I even consider myself a writer?” crossed my mind at least half a dozen times. Looking up at the faces of multi-million dollar women with faces brightly lit from stage lights and books that have more copies than I could ever dream of was pretty daunting. I’m just a tiny little author. Hardly noticeable. I haven’t done any of the cool and exciting things that these women have, and I’ll probably never be able to throw out phrases like “movie adaption” and “prequel” and “best seller list” like they can.
But in that moment, a tiny hot bubble popped in my chest. Because I know that feeling. I can actually remember my Sarah J. Maas moment, blubbering in a bookstore and feeling like I’d finally made it as an author.
November is unofficially and very predictably dubbed as a month of thankfulness, and while I don’t ever want to be one of those “Things I’m Grateful For” kind of bloggers, I did sit down and write a list of the best moments of my career so far. Some are big and important and others are tiny and special. But after writing the list, I didn’t feel small anymore. I may not be selling out box offices in movie adaptions of my books, but my stories have taken me places and opened me up to experiences that few nineteen-year-olds can hold on to.
I want to share these moments with you so that you can realize how non-small you are, too. I sat listening to Sarah Maas feeling like a tiny nobody until I really took time to reflect on what I’ve been able to do. And at nineteen, it made me realize how much time I have to do more. Whoever you are, and whatever your passions, never let someone you admire make you feel tiny. We need to learn to listen to the big and small moments of others and let them guide us back to our own moments.
The Best Moments of My Career So Far
Watching the Interrupted trailer. It was months before the book was released and I’d never even held a copy in my hands. But one day I stumbled across that trailer (I don’t even think Zondervan had emailed me the link yet) and started crying. It felt so real. The people I had created in my mind were flesh and bone and walking and talking and it was actually going to happen. My story was going to become a book. I’ll never forget that day.
Seeing Interrupted at our bookstore the first time. It was around the time the first Hunger Games movie came out, because I remember seeing it in theaters with Hannah and then wondering if the bookstore next to the movie theater would have my book. It felt like a long shot, but we went in and took deep breaths and scanned the shelves. And my heart plummeted and I might have screamed because there it was. Blue and soft and real. Sitting on the shelf of a bookstore. I was having a bad day and wearing a lumpy sweater and I didn’t want to stop taking pictures.
The first time I got a comment on my blog from someone I didn’t know.
Flying to Philly and mom commenting on how many people will never be able to experience something like this. We had a six am flight and the sun was just starting to rise as we climbed into the clouds and my mom turned and looked at me and said, “You do realize all the other sixteen-year-old girls in America are waking up and going to school and you’re flying to Philadelphia to go to your own book signing. Out of all the people in the world, you get to experience this.” And my throat caught.
Walking into Barnes and Noble with Hannah to check out Chasing Jupiter. This time we knew it would be there. It was early January and it had been out for about a week so it was bound to be on the shelf. And there it was, all orange and new, sitting next to the other new releases. This time we were unashamed of our squeals and jumping and the way the employees must have thought we were crazy. Their loss. They were the ones who’d selected my book as one of the staff picks of the month anyway.
Walking into a middle school and seeing posters of my books to get students ready for a signing.
The school that made me peach pie.
Sitting at the Christy Award dinner in St. Louis surrounded by literary greats and actually being counted as one of them. My knees were shaking and I kept wondering, even after I was there, if I was dressed appropriately and looked alright. Janette Oke was seated at a table across from me. They were calling out the authors behind award winning books and oh my gosh, I was one of them. You can’t forget nights like those.
Every time a reader emails me or someone comments on my blog. Every. Single. Time.
The first time I heard someone say, “Interrupted is my favorite book!”
The Dream Factory Workshop and being surrounded by six beautiful souls for four days. Hearing their stories and learning their voices and knowing that I was having a part in shaping their creative futures.
Hosting the most recent contest on my blog and getting to see my characters come to life through the creative talents of others.
Hearing Jenna’s song “Rocket to Jupiter”.
Walking up to my signing in Seattle and seeing a booth stacked with two hundred copies of Chasing Jupiter and realizing I had to sign them all. Hand cramps are the most incredible feeling in the world, when they come from something like that.
Getting a text from a friend telling me I was in WORLD Magazine.
The first time I was on tv. Or the radio. Or in a magazine. Anytime someone wanted to mention my books at all.
The month my hometown decided to put me on the front page of the newspaper for Women’s Month (February). I swear I could feel the excitement of all the old people at church.
Finally meeting my agent in person in Seattle – or spending several days with his family out on a lake in Oregon.
Realizing I met my best friend in the world through this blog. What if I had never started blogging? Or written a book? Would I know Elaini?
Hearing my dad tell me he is proud of me. Out of all the moments and all the mentions and all the praise, that’s probably the best moment so far.
I hope this didn’t come across as a narcissistic post bragging on all of the cool things I’ve done. On the contrary, I know I will probably never be Veronica Roth or James Dashner or Shannon Hale. But I’m learning to find grace and gratitude in what I have been able to do, and this post is to encourage you to rejoice in your tiny victories too.