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My love of writing started at an early, elementary school age where I would read Nancy Drew novels with a flashlight under my covers in order to make my setting seem mysterious like the genre I was reading. This hobby transferred over into writing as well, where at the age of seven I tried to write my own mystery novel, however it was about two hundred pages too short for a middle grade or young adult novel. In addition, it featured many fictional characters that I had grown attached to, such as the famous Scooby Doo gang. It is quite obvious that this book was not ready to be published, as I had the vocabulary of a seven year old and there were problems with spelling, however, both writing and reading opened a gateway to worlds I had yet to discover.
This passion for writing and love of reading has led me to pursue different job opportunities that would allow me the time to expand my bookcase and connect with other readers. As an aspiring author, I decided that I needed to take more steps towards understanding the industry I wanted to land a job in one day. I traded in my magnifying glass and flashlight for numerous book signing tickets across New England and New York in order to meet authors that inspired me and get some advice.
The first book signing I had decided to go to was across the country from where I lived. I was going to California during a long weekend I had off in high school to meet Cassandra Clare, author of the young adult fantasy novels, The Mortal Instruments and The Infernal Devices. Sadly, I was not meant to make that journey when I became sick a few days before I was supposed to leave. However, when my previously paid for signed book came in and I saw the signature on the novel, I knew I needed to go to another book signing. This time I would go closer to my home state.
These past few years in college I have been to numerous book signings. My first was at the independent bookstore, R.J. Julia Booksellers, in Madison, Connecticut. Neil Gaiman was signing The Ocean at the End of the Lane and I proceeded to get six books signed, including Stardust and Neverwhere. I had been apprehensive because there was long line of fans, however afterwards I knew I wanted to meet many more authors, due to the great experience I had at that book signing. Next, my journey continued at BookCon in New York City, where I met a self-published author who spent time talking to me about the industry and the lengthy process of getting a literary agent which was why she went the self-published route. However, she told me that once you had enough of a following on places like Amazon, she was able to get in contact with a literary agent to move towards traditional publishing. I had been so consumed with worries about traditional publishing that I did not realize there were other options, including many wonderful independent publishing houses. She encouraged me to keep writing. Even with the massive crowds, I was lucky to meet two other authors, Maureen Johnson and James Dashner. Both were appreciative towards their fans. Maureen Johnson was surprised and impressed with me lugging a hardcover, first edition, print copy of her book while James Dashner defied the rules by signing multiple copies of books, and posed for pictures with fans even though the line was extremely long and the workers at BookCon wanted the lines to move quickly. So far I had waited well over four hours to meet Neil Gaiman with an hour and a half commute each way and almost three hours for James Dashner with a two and a half hour commute that involved both car and train transportation. What impressed me the most was how the waits didn’t even matter in the end, getting to see the authors of books that I love made it worthwhile. I wanted to go to another and this was even after I had just come back from Ireland, was tired, jet lagged, and spent the day with packed crowds in New York City.
When I went back to New York City to meet Maggie Stiefvater, who was signing the last book in her series, The Raven Cycle, I had the chance to meet a fellow book reviewer who worked on blogs and attended many book signing events as work. Not only did her story inspire me to search for more freelance work, she mentioned another author I wanted to see who was coming to the exact same location in a month, Victoria Schwab. I knew I would need to come back again and before I did I attended another signing conveniently located only an hour away from me where three authors were attending the Teen Book Festival. It was at a Barnes and Noble and the crowds were much more manageable, where each reader was able to ask each author plenty of questions. Holly Black shared advice on writing a query letter and told us that she has spent so much time researching that eventually she needed to start sending out these letters. Apparently, the letter I dreaded writing did not determine my entire fate as a writer and that finally gave me the courage and push to set out and craft my own query letter. Holly Black, Kelly Link and Sarah Rees Brennan were all very interesting, sharing their life experiences with us, each author’s strengths complementing one another. The Blarney Stone was even a discussion topic as Sarah Rees Brennan and I talked about our adventures in Ireland.
Maggie Stiefvater’s book signing was one of the most entertaining I had been to. Her constant energy and humorous stories created laughter from the audience. She even brought her car cover for fans to sign on her tour. Victoria Schwab’s book signing was insightful and delved into writing as a craft. I learned so much from each of the book signings, but the most important part was connecting with readers and writers from different locations and becoming more educated in the area of publishing from them.
Reading still has a huge impact on my life as I read for pleasure and work, which often the lines are blurred between the two. It was reading that inspired me to write and then it was other talented writers, authors and readers who I connected with even for a short time over my last few years that have encouraged this discipline of writing. I had been sitting on a novel for almost two years and after those experiences I finally had the courage to take the story out. Without readers, there would be no writers and without writers, what would we read?
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