Becoming an Author

Hello, and welcome back to the blog.

Honestly, I still can’t believe this is happening to me. It feels surreal and weird. Is my heart supposed to be this light? Do I need to see a doctor about this problem I have where I can’t stop smiling?

All jokes aside, the Story Of How I Became An Author is pretty unique so hold on to your hats, folks.

In early October 2017, I was feeling pretty low. I’d been a college graduate for over a year, I’d totaled a car, I was applying for jobs and getting nowhere, and most importantly I was Extremely Frustrated with myself.

I decided that something had to change. I wasn’t sure what, but I knew I had to do something.

My first step was to go to my father and ask for a blessing. I’m a Mormon, or a Latter-Day-Saint (LDS) if you’re a stickler for the formal title, and we believe that through the power of God’s priesthood, fathers are able to give their children blessings when they need them. I’ve asked my father for a great many blessings over the years. We always got one before the first day of school each year, but I took advantage more often because I am a sensitive little softy who needs fairly constant emotional and spiritual validation.

In my father’s blessing, he blessed me with a few things, but this in particular was relevant to the rest of the story: if I took steps to prepare to go to the temple, I would find employment.

I’m not going to talk about the temple, here. Not much, anyway. This isn’t the time or place for that kind of post.

Anyway— every year, twice a year, the LDS church does this neat thing called General Conference. It’s filmed at the Conference Center in Salt Lake City, and consists of the leaders of the LDS church gathering and addressing everyone in the church. General Conference is translated into hundreds of different languages, so that people around the world have access to the wisdom and inspiration shared by the prophet, apostles, and other church leaders.

I decided that I should listen and think about what my dad said in his blessing, about going to the temple. With every talk given, I felt more and more certain that I needed to actively do what he suggested. Partly because I wanted to go to the temple and believed it would be A Good Thing, and partly because there was that nifty little bit about finding employment and I very much wanted to be employed.

I decided to do it. I decided I was going to get ready, and that I wanted to go to the temple by the end of the year.

And: not a WEEK after I made this decision, I was contacted by a guy named David, who works for a children’s publisher called Familius, based out of California. They had this book series, you see. The author of the first two novels, Annette, was David’s sister, and she was getting very busy with her family and didn’t have time to write the books anymore. David actually grew up in my local congregation— in fact, his dad was the bishop before my dad. David’s mom (my former bishop’s wife) had mentioned that I write, so he’d gotten in touch and would I be interested in this kind of thing?

It might be a bit of an understatement to say I was VERY INTERESTED.

I sent back an email indicating my INTEREST. David said, “Neat! Can you send me some writing samples?”

I sent one of these blog posts (the one about the name Elizabeth), and a three-page excerpt from the novel I’d been working on in my spare time.

David said, “Great! You’re hired.”

I screamed and cried and generally lost my marbles to my entire family.

Now you have to understand, this isn’t really how it works in the publishing world. Usually what happens is that unless you have an agent or an editor prior to submission, you write a draft and revise it a couple of times and send queries out to publishers, who will then reply, “nah, not interested” or “neat, send more pls”. It is a lot of sitting around and waiting for things to happen while working on your next project, basically.

So I am EXTREMELY LUCKY to have gotten this opportunity. Or, as I personally believe based on the coincidental timing of the father’s blessing and my decision to prepare to go to the temple, EXTREMELY BLESSED.

(I did end up going to the temple, but as I said— not the time or place. It’s very sacred and private. Also, it’s off-topic for this post.)

Not only was I employed, but I was employed in a field that was literally my dream job. The job I had wanted, craved, adored since I was six. The job for which I have spent fourteen years of my life attempting to hone my skills. I was handed an opportunity on a golden platter and told, “You’re welcome.”

The book I wrote (because yes, it is already written; that’s why if you know me IRL I’ve been doing things like a neat lil author’s page and stuff) is very cool. It’s a children’s book, targeted toward middle-grade readers. The premise is similar to the very popular “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” series, in that it is done in a diary-type format with illustrations. It differs from said DWK series in that it stars cute little monster-type people, and it discusses children’s mental health issues. There were two books in the series when I came in. The first was about ADHD, and the second was about screen addiction.

My book is about anxiety— a topic very near and dear to my heart, as you well know.

The previous author and I both worked with a developmental and behavioral pediatrician and psychologist, Dr. Raun Melmed. He’s fairly well-known in his community— like his picture comes up when you Google him and everything. Dr. Melmed was a pleasure to work with. He told me about the technique he wanted me to implement in helping my character deal with her anxiety. We even had a phone call. I hate phone calls, but it went okay and he was very helpful. This series is his brainchild and I am very grateful to be allowed the opportunity to work on it with him. He also wrote a guide for parents and teachers that goes in the back of the book— it’s designed to be used as a classroom tool, as well as a story. However, besides a few key details like the name, gender, and identity of the main character and the background given in the first two books, I was given more or less complete creative freedom over the story.

Dr. Melmed and I went over my first few drafts and he helped me with the mechanical edits and how I implemented his technique into the story. Then the story went to editing and we were assigned a lovely editor by the name of Caroline.

Honestly, Caroline was probably one of the best things about writing this book. I’d never had a real-life editor before. I have had good friends and family read my stuff and offer suggestions, but I’d never had an actual editor. Caroline was so easy to work with and so much fun, and she helped me to understand that I have a tendency to use weak verbs with adverb qualifiers— something I can apply to my writing in general right away!

The best part about working with Caroline is that I do feel like we are friends now. She was so sweet and she really encouraged me to use my odd sense of humor and my own brand of weirdness as I wrote.

The story has been in illustration since February or so. The illustrator’s name is Jeff Harvey, but I don’t actually know much about him. I was given PDF copies of the first two books so I can say firsthand that he is a fantastic artist. The books are adorable and I can’t wait for mine to turn out in the same style.

Publication is set for Spring 2019. I’ve not been given an exact date yet, but I will update both here and on my brand-spanking-new author Facebook page (found here!) when I know more.

Since Familius isn’t one of The Big Five publishing companies, I will be doing a lot of self-advertisement and branding. That’s just how publishing works. So, if that kind of thing annoys you, then, uh, I don’t really know what to tell you because my entire life is self-advertisement now?

So that is the story of how I became an author.

I don’t know if I can explain this feeling I’m experiencing, but since that’s how I will be shortly making a very small living, I think it’s worth a shot:

Despite every single hateful thought I have had about myself, despite the times when I have wished I was dead, despite the wretched heartache that has, on occasion, manifested as physical pain— despite all this and more, I have fulfilled a dream.

This is something I have wanted so badly, for so long. Realizing this dream has made all of the pain I’ve gone through to get here entirely, one hundred percent worth it.

And that— that is something that will never be warped by the darkness within me. When I am confused and sad and afraid, I can look back on this moment and smile and say, “It was worth it.” It is a golden, endless thread in my patchwork personality.

I’m not saying that I’m cured of mental illness. Nor am I saying I will never have bad days again. What I have now is perspective. I have something solid to hold onto, instead of just a hope that things will get better. Even on my worst days, I can say, “Screw you, mental illness. I wrote a book.”

If you’re looking forward to seeing this blog in the future, consider following. If you want to see Occasional Pictures of My Face and Food I Have Made, you can follow me on Instagram at hypotheticalelephants. If you want to see me being a Whiny, Immature Human, you can follow me on Twitter at sadINFJwriter. If you would like to follow me on Facebook for professional purposes, you can find me at S.E. Abramson.