At sixteen years old, my first book was published with Zondervan. It was hard-bound, 256 pages, and I wrote it when I was fourteen. Since I first started sharing with others about the amazing journey God has been leading on, I’ve encountered a boatload of questions. How did I get published so early? How did I land an agent/publisher? What is my “secret”? Well, I certainly don’t believe I have all the answers, but I’ll try my best to retell the story here, however interesting or boring you may find it.
The story starts back in 2006/07, when we were studying the Reformation in school. I was in sixth grade, and my mom required me to write a short story for a writing assignment. I wrote a few pages about the daughter of a martyr and her rebirth in Christ after watching the death of her mother. If I recall correctly, it was filled with literary mistakes and was way too melodramatic, but my mom liked it. I’d never written fiction before and I guess neither of us knew that I could.
Well, it was obviously God’s will that I continue to write because, against all odds, Mom saw an ad for a fiction writing coach a couple days later in a homeschooling newsletter. She sent him my story and after a few e-mails back and forth we signed up for a few months worth of lessons. A few months led to a year of writing lessons, during which learned so much more than I had expected. I wrote dozens of short stories and even a novella that took several months to complete. After a year, we could no longer afford to take lessons, so we decided to stop for the time being. My very sweet coach offered to give me several more weeks for free so we could wrap up what we were doing and he could give me his final thoughts and advice.
I never really thought I’d do anything with my writing. To me, it wasn’t a career aspiration or even something I saw myself doing as a teen or adult. I wrote because I loved it and because it was (relatively) easy and because it enabled me with a sense of freedom. Although I viewed it as an unreachable fancy, I never gave much serious thought to being a published author.
That was, until the spring of 2010. I’d been working on my first full-length novel, which I’d started right around my fourteenth birthday. When I finished it that spring, all I knew was that I loved what I’d done and figured it would be a waste to have worked so hard for several months and not even try to do anything with it. On a whim, I checked out an “idiot’s guide” to getting a book published from our library. Before then, I didn’t know a thing about getting published. I thought maybe you just sent your book to the company and then paid them to get it into print. Flipping through the pages of the self-help guide, I realized that this was a lot more complicated than I had realized.
Nonetheless, I am a girl who loves a challenge so I figured I’d at least give it a shot. The first step the book suggested was to write a cover letter to several agents explaining your book and asking if they’d like to at least look at it. That seemed easy enough. I Googled “Christian literary agents” and sent my cover letter to the addresses of fifteen people who popped up. Every single one rejected me (or didn’t respond at all!) except for one. Bill Jensen, a very well recognized agent in the Christian market.
Even Bill didn’t do any somersaults or anything after reading my letter. I remember he was very brief and terse. He told me it was too short for publishers to pick up, but to send it to him anyway just so he could look at it. I did, and we heard nothing for several weeks.
One afternoon, while getting ready to go out, the phone rang and Mom locked herself in her room for over an hour. The rest of us were more than a little confused. Who was she talking to? She was laughing, seemingly elated, and she kept mentioning me and books. To be honest, I had almost completely forgotten about sending my book to Bill and didn’t realize it was him on the phone. So when Mom hung up and told me what was going on, I about had a heart attack.
Apparently, Bill had read the first three chapters of my book and was beyond excited about it. I’m not sure if it was because I was fourteen, or because I was a homeschooler (he homeschooled all his children), but he seemed to think it had a good chance of getting published. The next few weeks flew by as Bill finished reading, had me do a few edits, and then finally signed the contract to be my literary agent.
After that, it was quiet for a while. A long while. There was nothing I could do or say or write to make anyone want my book, and that was very intimidating to me. For once, I was not in control at all. The next few months were full of prayer and pleading to God for guidance. To me, my future seemed very uncertain and scary. The only comfort I had was that the chances of getting published were one in a thousand, so if my little book got picked up I could only take it as a sign from God.
Bill called us one afternoon in December and finally ended our misery. The people at Zondervan had gotten the book and were very interested in publishing it. Needless to say, we were over the moon. We jumped around and squealed and probably said a million times: “I don’t believe it!”
It took Zondervan several weeks to make a final decision, but in the end, they sent us a contract for my book. We signed it, sent it back, and it was official. After a long year of marketing and waiting, my book, Interrupted: Life Beyond Words was released in March 2012. Despite the nerves and butterflies and extra hours spent working, I felt a great peace about the whole thing, because I know that God has been in control all along.
My next book is due to come out in March 2013, for those of you who are asking. I really appreciate all the support and kind remarks I’ve received about the first one, so hopefully this next project won’t be a disappointment.
Well, I hope I’ve answered the questions everyone asked me. If you have anymore, please let me know.