When I was seven years old I vowed that I would become an author and buy a house. I managed to achieve the first part of that dream by the time I was sixteen, though I’m still working on the second part. It seems that I drastically overestimated how much authors earn and underestimated how much houses cost. This is Steph. This is her story.
I wrote constantly as a kid – almost as often as I read. I loved picture books – I often credit The Very Hungry Caterpillar as the book that inspired me to become a writer. I attempted to write stories before I could even write words. By the time I wrote Girl Saves Boy, I’d been madly blogging about books and reading all I could about publishing and figured I might as well have a go at this whole author thing. Aware that I’d probably get rejections I still sent out query letters to literary agents recommended to me by writers I knew online. Within three weeks I had signed with an agent in the US. I had a two-book deal with Text Publishing two months after that. It was surreal and wonderful and unexpected. But also super stressful! I had to edit! I was going to be a professional writer!
One of the many wonderful things about knowing what you want to do with your life at a pretty early age is that you haven’t yet internalised all the negativity (and much of the reality) of the world. As an adult writer, being aware of how huge the task of writing a novel – let alone a good novel – is, and how incredibly difficult it is to be published, it’s very easy to be discouraged. You also have lots of responsibilities, including the need to earn money, which writing is not a career path particularly renowned for. It’s much easier to follow your dreams when you still have a great deal of freedom.
When you’re a kid, and even into your teenage years, everything is possible. Inexperience is actually a huge benefit – you are so wildly confident that the gargantuan seems quite manageable. Dedication and discipline to write are actually things I require more now than I did as a fifteen-year-old, even though I wrote just as much then – I was so absolutely consumed back then by enthusiasm to write, and for the stories I was writing. It changes a bit once it turns into a career, and you’re a good enough writer to be able to see all the flaws in your own writing. But I think there is something raw and genuine and wonderfully honest about the things young people write, even if they’re not technically the most talented and subtle of writers. I have always thought in terms of stories – and I see potential stories everywhere – so for me it was the best possible way to express myself and explore new ideas and try to imagine life from someone else’s point of view.
I think a huge part of being a successful kid is having someone in your corner growing up, and though I had many people in my life who were supportive of my dreams (I still do), I really have to give credit to my mum. She read to me a great deal when I was little and has always supported and guided me through whatever I wanted to do. She let me finish high school by distance education so I could pursue my writing and went with me on tour once I had my book published. She never pressured me into any particular path though – and I think that’s important, and something I’d try to do if I ever have children myself. My mum instilled in me a sense that I could do absolutely anything, but all she really wanted me to do was be happy. When I wanted to start sending my manuscript to agents when I was fifteen, I asked her what she thought, and she said something along the lines of ‘That’s cool! You do that!’
While writing does require plenty of hard work – work that’s pretty easy to avoid when it’s just you, sitting at a computer – it doesn’t really feel like a typical job. Getting to visit schools and speak to kids about books, and getting emails from readers who really loved my novel (from as far away as Spain and Holland) and meeting the authors I admired as a kid and being one of their peers – it’s all quite surreal.
I love writing, and I would write even if I knew I would never be published. If writing is important to you, make time in your life for it. Yes, it’s a difficult process, but if I’d allowed myself to be overwhelmed by the seeming impossibility of it, I’d never have had a go, and wouldn’t have got anywhere. Luck plays a big role – the right manuscript falling into the hands of the right person at the right time is all it takes for a book deal to happen. But luck can’t play that role unless you write the novel and send it out into the world.
What were you doing in your life at nineteen?
After countless attempts to align our schedules, Steph and I missed each other when I visited the Gold Coast. So she has generously offered this post in her own words and I am truly grateful that she has shared her story for Stories of You. You can follow Steph Bowe on her blog, on Facebook or on Twitter . She has published two novels Girl Saves Boy and All This Could End. Please stop by and say hello x
If you would like to nominate someone or yourself to be part of Stories of You, please email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to meet you over coffee and hear your story. Read the other incredible stories from the Stories of You collection here.