Stories of You

Steph: Everything is Possible

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.

Steph Bowe

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.

Steph Bowe

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!’

Steph Bowe

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 josefa@alwaysjosefa.com. I’d love to meet you over coffee and hear your story. Read the other incredible stories from the Stories of You collection here.

  • LydiaCLee

    I love this “But luck can’t play that role unless you write the novel and send it out into the world.” Dead last is better than failed to start….

    • Steph Bowe

      Absolutely! Thank you 🙂

  • Wow what an accomplishment! That is quite inspiring. I wish I had the time to get stuck into a novel or something, but like you said Steph I suppose if it was that important to me then I would MAKE time, but when you have to help your husband support our family and three kids through writing newspaper editorials, there isn’t much spare time! But I do know I have a book in me, I’ve always known, I’m just not sure what it’s about yet 🙂

    • Steph Bowe

      I can absolutely understand how it would be challenging! I hope you one day manage to write that book – good luck with it 🙂

  • The Plumbette

    Steph is amazing and I loved reading her story. It’s truly inspiring. I do have a book written about my experience becoming a plumber. I may need to dust off that manuscript and get it into the right hands. Thank you for the motivation and inspiration. 🙂

    • Steph Bowe

      Thank you! Good luck with sending out your book – sounds fascinating! 🙂

  • www.createbakemake.com

    What an inspiring story! A lot of what Steph said has hit home with me – it is the truly important things in your life that you have to/will make time for. Thank you for sharing x

    • Steph Bowe

      Thank you! 🙂

  • Emma Fahy Davis

    There are so many inspiring things in this story, but what resonates with me most is Steph’s words on youth and inexperience, they remind me of the lyrics to a song my dad would play when we were kids: “Inexperience, it once had cursed me, But your youth is no handicap, it’s what makes you thirsty.” Kudos to Steph, and thanks for giving her story a voice Josefa 🙂

    • Steph Bowe

      Thanks so much, Emma! 🙂

      I’m now listening to that song on YouTube… 🙂

  • What a wonderfully inspiration you are Steph. Good on you for following your dreams and congratulations on your books. Amazing story x

    • Steph Bowe

      Thank you, Jodi! 🙂

  • TwitchyCorner

    Wow, that is some great self-belief there. That Hungry Caterpillar sure was one powerful green worm. Well done Steph!

    • Steph Bowe

      Thank you! 🙂

  • Well done, Steph! I remember reading about you some time ago and was amazed at your tenacity and self-belief. I wanted to be a writer when I was a teenager but was quickly informed by many around me that it was so incredibly unlikely that I was better off focusing elsewhere. I aimlessly ended up working in a newsagency when I was 19, travelled for four years, and then ended up at uni in my mid-twenties. It took me until my late 30s to bite the bullet and actually become a writer for a living (after years in corporate communications). I feel like it’s a shame that I lost all of that time just because I didn’t believe it was possible, but I also think I learned a great deal in that time so it’s not wasted. Having said that, I will be raising my three kids to believe that they can do whatever they want to do (as long as they work hard at it). Congrats on your success so far – looking forward to seeing what you do next.

    • Steph Bowe

      Thank you so much, Carolyn! Definitely all of those other experiences would’ve shaped who you are as a writer a now, but it’s always such a pity when young people are discouraged! (You only have one life! Why not follow your dreams?) 🙂

      • Absolutely! And when you are young you are blessed with a wonderful fearlessness that is great to harness.

  • Girl Saves Boy was a great read, Steph. You’ll get that house eventually. Or maybe you’ve decided you don’t really need in after all? x

    • Steph Bowe

      Thank you, Maxabella! I’m so glad you enjoyed it. I still want to get a house eventually – I don’t want to let 7-year-old Steph down 🙂

  • Never let go of your dreams…in the end they will come true if you’re determined to see that they do…some may take longer than others…but don’t despair…don’t give up! 🙂

    • Steph Bowe

      Absolutely! 🙂

  • That’s pretty impressive!
    I giggle though at her being nineteen and talking about when you are a kid. Nineteen is still so young! Or maybe I’m just getting really old? 🙂

    • Steph Bowe

      Thank you! Yes, nineteen is definitely young – I feel very kid-like around other writers – I think there was a big shift for me between being a kid-writer hobbyist and kid writing for a career, though. You feel like less of a kid with a proper career 🙂

  • TeganMC

    What an awesome life you’ve lived so far! Good luck with the future.

    • Steph Bowe

      Thank you so much, Tegan! 🙂

  • Your right it is hard work! I remember when I signed my first book deal I was excited and like, that was easy, and then my agent told me it needed an EXTRA 30,000 words, I could just knock that up by such and such date, yes? – reality!

    • Steph Bowe

      It’s a much different experience writing for publication than writing for yourself, absolutely! Editing especially is often just plain hard work. 🙂

  • I was dropping out of Uni at 19… I know this a strange thing to say, but everything that has happened since in my life started then… and here I am at 47 writing what I hope will be my first book…

    We all have different stories, different life paths… my path has led me to a point that I’m now ready to be a writer – I know I wasn’t ready at 19… but it’s great to see someone achieve success so young! 🙂

    • Steph Bowe

      Thank you, John. Best of luck with writing your book! I’m sure there are many life experiences that have wonderfully shaped who you are as a writer 🙂

  • Rebekah

    What an inspirational story!!

    • Steph Bowe

      Thank you, Rebekah!

  • Leanne Shea Langdown

    Read that over a cuppa and then re-read it. As a fellow author it was great to “chat” to someone else about it. Thanks for sharing Josepha and Steph 🙂
    Leanne @ Deep Fried Fruit

    • Steph Bowe

      Thanks, Leanne! 🙂

  • Oh my that is impressive! And very encouraging. 🙂

    • Steph Bowe

      Thank you! 🙂

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