I didn’t share this with too many people during the process of writing–mostly because I’m awkward at self-promotion, and didn’t want the accountability if I ended up giving up before it was done. Is that embarrassing and vulnerable to admit? A little bit. So here’s to catching everyone up on what I’ve been doing.
A while back (further back than I’d like to admit), I had an idea for a book that I could write. Ever since I was a kid, I wanted to write a book and be a published author. I have always loved writing, so I just needed a good idea and then to take the time to get it done. So I came up with what I figured was a good idea, got started, and then totally slacked on it.
Then COVID hit.
In all of the confusion and unprecedented-ness of a global pandemic, schools closed down for the last two and a half months of the 2019-2020 school year. When we closed our doors, I spoke with so many coworkers about how productive we were going to be. I was going to go for a run every day, finally try those pinterest recipes, and finally sit down to write my book. Then the emotional reality of a pandemic hit, and I was not quite as productive as I’d planned. I did run, but not consistently. I tried a few new recipes, which was kind of fun. And I did open up my novel and get writing. I actually made a ton of progress.
And then I slacked on it again.
To be fair, as teachers, we spent a lot of that spring and summer meeting and trying to figure out what the next year looked like. So I did keep myself busy with other things. But if I’m being honest, I should have been able to finish my book that year. Instead, it sat in my Google Drive, gathering figurative dust.
And then last year J and I found out we were pregnant!
This was by no means a surprise, and we were so grateful and feeling so blessed that our family would be growing. Our little girl would be due at the end of April 2022. As we began all of the prep and planning for life with a baby, my unfinished book popped up in the back of my mind. I’d heard about the craziness of life as working parents, so started thinking that if I didn’t finish writing my book, I might never finish it. And if I never finished it, I would always wonder what might have been.
So now I had a deadline.
With renewed motivation, I got to writing. I worked at it. I Kept my husband updated on my progress (forcing myself to have a little accountability), and I started researching publishing options.
In 2022, the option to self-publish is always there. There are also companies I discovered who will help you self-publish (for a fee of course). Then again, I could just send out unsolicited manuscripts to publishing companies who would accept them and see what happened. Or, I could look for an agent to represent my book to publishing companies.
I decided that self-publishing would be a decent option if I couldn’t find a publisher to pick it up. It was a solid back up plan, though I was worried that it would take a lot of extra effort and time–which I wouldn’t have a ton of once M got here. I didn’t necessarily want to find a literary agent because that sounded expensive (honestly, not sure it is. I didn’t research that option enough). So I started by trying companies accepting unsolicited manuscripts. I literally googled “companies accepting unsolicited YA manuscripts” and “companies accepting unsolicited Christian manuscripts”. (honestly, my book is kind of niche. Not too many people looking for Christian YA novels out there). After finding some companies, I searched through websites, followed various instructions for submissions, and sent my book off to like a dozen companies.
And here’s the thing about my type-B self. I hadn’t actually finished my book yet when I did this. I was close! But I wasn’t done. Most of the submission requirements ask for the first few chapters, but require that your book is done. I sent off my submissions when I wasn’t yet finished, which then required me to wrap it up. See how I force myself to get motivated? It might not be pretty, but it totally worked.
In February, we had a mid-winter break, which is when I officially finished typing my book. Within a couple weeks, I received one response from a publishing company who was not looking for YA books, one response from a company saying ‘no thanks’, and one response from a company offering to publish my book! As the kids say–I was shook. If you do that math, you realize there were like 10 companies who never responded, which is the equivalent of a “not interested”. But 10ish rejections and one offer of publication is not too shabby!
The company I went with is called Wipf and Stock. They’re a smaller company out in Oregon, and I just loved their mission and vision. Their website explains who they are as “Without agenda, we are shamelessly unapologetic about what we like: relationships, good beer, fine books, and enough coffee to keep us moving.” So relatable right? I do need to pay a typesetting fee–close to $500ish, but once it’s typeset and finalized, I’ll have a real book available on their website, amazon.com…all major book sellers. Like, y’all, my book already has its own isbn number!
So what the heck did I write?
Well, I pulled from what I know. I wrote a YA book, since those are the books I’m constantly recommending and trying to get my students to read. There’s a Toni Morrison quote I once read that said, “If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it,” So, pulling from my experience as a camp counselor, a teacher, and a student ministries leader; I wrote a book that I haven’t seen on the shelf yet. Here’s the synopsis I wrote and used for my many unsolicited manuscript submissions:
Paisley (or Leigh as she prefers to be called) is a high school junior living in Grand Rapids and facing a variety of challenges. Her father left her family, her mom tries to escape her hardships through drinking, and Paisley has had to shoulder much of the responsibility of caring for her younger sister. With a broken home, rejection from the church, and a lot of tough questions, faith has never been an important part of Paisley’s life. That all changes the day she accidentally punches a cop.
With court-ordered community service at a summer camp in northern Michigan, Leigh embarks on a journey of discovery. Thrown into a cabin with seven other “hardened-criminals” and an overly-bubbly camp counselor named Belle, Leigh gets stuck going to Bible studies and talking about her past. With her strong skepticism and deep hurts, Leigh has a lot of questions about Christianity. Alongside her enthusiastic mentor and seven other questioning, new friends, Leigh begins to learn who Jesus actually is.
This novel seeks to address some of the deepest faith questions teenagers struggle with, encouraging and empowering readers to explore their own challenges to faith. An inclusion of racially, sexually, and socioeconomically diverse characters was an important priority because for Generation Z, inclusion and social justice are moral issues. Diversity also reflects the beautiful and creative aspects of God and our world so were representative of Leigh’s world.
Is your interest piqued???
If not, that’s totally fine. You can just order a copy of my book and add it to your bookshelves for fun 🙂
In all seriousness, I’m super excited to share my novel with my family, friends, students, and strangers. We’re currently in the last few stages of the publishing process. I don’t have a publication date, but it should be soon-ish. I’m hoping by the fall? I’ll definitely keep you all updated.
Besides seeing my book on Amazon, want to know what I’m not-so-secretly most excited for? As an official author, that kind of makes me a public figure. Like, you’ll be able to google me and find my book. SO…this means I can legitimately petition Instagram to give me a blue checkmark!
Not even kidding. Crossing my fingers for that verified account. But yeah, OMG! I wrote a book.