I love words. Love ’em.
Ask anyone close to me how much I love words–they’ll tell you. (AKA–I talk a lot. Maybe too much.) I also have a wild imagination and a love of books, nurtured by growing-up years spent reading with my mom. Naturally, I discovered the art of storytelling early on, creating my first “book” as soon as I could wield a crayon.
When I was thirteen, I wrote my first “novel,” a poor, plotless, jumble of approximately forty thousand words. Filled with youthful optimism and determination, I queried agents and editors, almost self-published, and…
Learned my lesson.
If I wanted to be a writer–a real writer, with a traditional publisher–I had work to do.
I started over, not knowing exactly what I was doing but growing in my love for the craft. I researched story structure, learned the basic rules of the publishing industry, and started connecting with real, live authors (gasp!) on the Go Teen Writers blog.
I woke up.
No, literally. I woke up one February morning with a trio of words swirling around in my head. Porch Swing Girl. I don’t know where the title came from. My only explanation is that God had unlocked the story within me. And, whatever it was, that story was going to be called Porch Swing Girl.
That same morning, my mom and I walked the dog together, per usual. What wasn’t usual was the fact that I was strangely quiet. I kept pondering those words.
Why is the girl on a porch swing?
Where is the porch swing?
What is she DOING out there?
By the end of the walk, the warm, fizzy excitement that comes with a new idea chased away the winter chill. I began to write.
I’d love to tell you that it was easy, that the words just flowed.
I’d be stretching it.
There was no flowing–writing that first draft was HARD.
Throw in school, extracurricular activities, and painful family drama (my grandma died during the writing of my book) and it was a long, slow, hard climb.
But that optimism that had inspired me to query agents all those years ago was still alive in my heart. With the annual Oregon Christian Writers summer conference coming up, I polished the first few chapters of my (still unfinished) manuscript and sent advance queries to three of the editors attending the conference.
I said a prayer over them, hoping that at least one of the editors would request to meet with me at the conference. Until then, I promptly forgot about it.
Imagine my surprise, then, when I received an email in my newly established “author inbox.” One of the publishers–Miralee Ferrell of Mountain Brook Ink–wanted to know if I would consider turning my book into a series.
A series? Me?
Until that point, I hadn’t given life after Porch Swing Girl any thought. Maybe, if I got it published, I would check “author” off the bucket list and move on. But now…if Miralee wanted a series, I’d give her a series.
At the conference, I met with her, tossed around ideas for subsequent books, and made plans to keep in touch.
We did, and she helped me along as I finished the book, joined ACFW, found my critique group, and started working with a freelance editor on developmental edits.
Oh, and the editor? Miralee’s sister, Jenny Mertes, grammar queen and editor extraordinaire.
Jenny showed me how flawed my manuscript was. It was another plotless piece of prose–good prose, she added, but without enough “hooks” to keep a reader engaged. That was when I learned what it is really like to be a writer. It isn’t glamorous, it isn’t easy, it’s work.
Six months and just as many drafts later, Porch Swing Girl was a real book and it was once again time for the Oregon Christian Writers Conference. And the sudden influx of half-giddy messages from Jenny told me that something was going to happen. When Miralee and I met in the hallway the second day of the conference, I was thrilled when she requested to meet with me AND my mom.
Only a few hours later, my mom and I were crowded around Miralee’s table in a room full of optimistic writers, all pitching to different editors and agents.
That was when it happened. Miralee offered me a contract.
She wanted it all–Porch Swing Girl, plus two more books, to create a series.
And that’s what brought me here, to this little corner of the web. Here, my very own story will unfold as I navigate the crazy world of being a teenage author.
I’m so glad you’ve joined me.