How I Became A Writer

MardiGrasPreCallI’ve spent a lot of time on other authors’ websites. I’ve read their blogs and their bios, and I’ve noticed that many have one thing in common—they always knew they wanted to be an author.

I did not.

Sure, growing up, writing was a talent. I scored highly on five-paragraph essays in high school, I became an editor for our high school newspaper, and when I got to college I purposely chose courses based entirely on essay exams. I became a journalism major thinking it was a practical way to apply my skills to an appealing career.

Then an interesting thing happened—I didn’t like being a reporter. At first, I thought that I simply didn’t like what I was writing about (hotels and real estate), then I began to think that writing was something that I was “good at” and not something that I was supposed to pursue professionally.

I must thank my parents for always insisting I find a job that I love. My father, a reluctant accountant, encouraged me to follow my passion and let the money follow. I didn’t love being a reporter. In fact, I felt certain that there was something “else” I was supposed to be doing with my life, only I had yet to figure it out.

But journalism was all I knew. I had five unpaid journalism internships while at BU, I graduated from the College of Communication, and I had an entire resume filled with reporting experience from ABC Boston to a radio station in Madrid. I needed a push to leave the industry. And I got one.

The last photo I took that shows the Towers-- approximately one week before they collapsed.

The last photo I took that shows the Towers–
approximately one week before they collapsed.

9/11 happened. I lived five blocks from Ground Zero.

For the first time, I took a hard look at my life and realized that I wanted to do something different, something I felt more passionate about. So I quit my job, moved back to Philadelphia with my now husband, Jordan, and joined a nonprofit helping inner city school districts.

I liked my job, I liked the organization, I liked my coworkers, and my work felt valued. I was happy.

Then, while planning my wedding, I began to have silly nuptial-themed dreams. They were vivid and typical—from forgetting my dress to no guests arriving. Until one night. I woke up having dreamt that I was the author of a series of young adult novels based on my bullying experiences in middle school. I dreamt the concept for more than three books, and it all felt so real.

I immediately told Jordan who looked at me, tilted his head and said, “Don’t you remember that psychic?”

I hadn’t. Until then.

Me in front of the psychic's store.

Me in front of the psychic’s store.

A few years prior, when we were still living in Manhattan, we took a vacation across New England. We stopped in Salem, MA, home of the witches, right after Halloween. I decided to see a psychic (when in Rome, right?). It was the only time I’d ever been to one. Skeptical, I sat down determined to be vague. I told the psychic that I wanted to know about my career. The first thing she said was, “You’re a writer.” Given I was still a reporter at the time, I was justifiably impressed, yet cautious. So I told her I was a reporter who wrote about “business.” The psychic confidently sat back in her chair and said, “No, no, I don’t see that. You’re an author. You write books, little books, like children’s books.”

I had completely forgotten the entire visit until Jordan reminded me. And, having been raised Catholic, I was convinced it was “a sign.” I vowed to write the novels I dreamt of as soon as we returned from our honeymoon.

I finished my first novel in the spring of 2005. Knowing absolutely nothing about the publishing industry, I Googled, “How to get your book published.” I learned that I needed to find a literary agent, so I went to the bookstore and bought a book on literary agents. The book included several chapters on how to navigate the process and I followed it step-by-step.

I started submitting my query letter in June 2005. Two weeks later, I got an agent (seriously lucky, I know), and by July 2005, my book was on submission. To date, that book has yet to be published . However, I went on to sell Amor and Summer Secrets to Kensington Publishing for a three-book deal.

Family_HayrideI quit my job at the nonprofit in April 2007 and became a full-time writer. In April 2011, I added another challenge to my resume— I became a working mom when I gave birth to my daughter, Juliet. In 2014, I had my son, Lincoln, and now I try my best to balance writing and motherhood. My latest YA series, Anastasia Phoenix, sold to Entangled Published in a three-book deal in 2015, while I was on a family vacation “down the shore” in New Jersey.  (I was changing my son’s diaper when I got The Call. You can watch a cool video of that happy moment here.)

It has been a long road, but I am confident that I have finally figured out “what I am supposed to be doing” with my life. I hope I will one day teach my kids the same.

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