I'm a runner, Christ follower, proud Raven-puff, and weary grad student. I also write books of various persuasions. Welcome to my corner of the interwebs.


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Being Published When You're Not Ready

If you frequent online writing circles, before long, you'll run across someone somewhere talking about how long they had to struggle before they "made it" - before they got an agent, got a book deal, or became a NYT bestseller.

For many people, the gestation period for their writing careers is long years of querying agents to no success, frustrations with books falling through at acquisition meetings, and devastation when agents decide to drop them as clients. Many, many writers have stories of long hours and no tangible success.

I was not this writer.

I wrote my debut novel when I was a senior in college. I sent my first query that summer, and I signed with an agent in December. The book was on submission for roughly three months before we had an offer. A second followed. My debut sold to a big 5 (then, big 6) publisher for a decent advance.

I wrote my debut at 22 years old and sold it at 23; it released when I was 25.

And I can now say that I wasn't ready.

May and June of 2015 were incredibly difficult months for me. In all honesty, 2015 was just rough in general. I'd moved back to the States after living abroad, undergoing major life transitions. My book, Hello, I Love You also released to serious criticism and pushback.

And I didn't know how to handle it.

The criticism surrounding my debut was varied but mostly amounted to one thing: I'd written a book that had not handled a sensitive subject in a sensitive way, and I'd hurt a lot of people in the process.

At the time, I didn't know what to do. I received contradictory advice from my editor, my agent, my friends. I felt isolated. I was horrified that what I'd written had offended so many people. How did I fix this? What was I supposed to do, to say?

So I said nothing.

For a long time.

I couldn't write. I retreated from all social media. I stopped checking my email. I couldn't face any of it.

Eventually, I parted ways with my agent. I scrambled together the best public apology I could. I continued to make a few appearances at book events and tried to explain to readers what I'd intended the book to be - even if I hadn't succeeded. But nothing felt right.

Looking back, four years later, I wish I could tell myself one thing: just be honest. I made a lot of private apologies, but I think I owed readers and the community a public one - a recognition that I hadn't ignored anyone and that I'd taken criticisms seriously.

Youth is never an excuse for behavior, but I often wish my publishing journey hadn't started so early.

I wish I hadn't written whatever the heck I wanted, without first considering whether I should have touched on certain topics.

I wish I'd been more thoughtful and careful and considerate.

I wish I'd just been a little older, hopefully a little wiser, and a little more mature.

We often think success at a young age is desirable. Isn't it better to achieve your dreams early?

What's better about waiting?

In my experience, a lot.

There's something to be said for the percolation of your ideas and views - for the nuance that comes from life experience. Some people have this earlier than others. I didn't have as much as I needed for the task and responsibility I'd accepted. And I think it showed.

I've been asked if I'd write Hello, I Love You now. And the answer is no. Not as it is.

There are parts of that story that are still as real and true and raw for me now as they were then: hope after a great loss, guilt for circumstances out of your control, and breaking free from relationships that have squeezed the breath out of you.

But there are other parts that, frankly, I wish I could erase. Because I messed up. And I have enough distance from the project now - and hopefully, a little more maturity - to admit that in a public forum.

I'm grateful that Hello, I Love You found a small number of readers that clicked with the themes I believe in. And I extend my sincerest apologies to those who were hurt by the bad bits. I wish I could say I'd never misstep again, but that's not something anyone can promise.

What I can promise is that I'm not the same writer - or the same person - that wrote that debut novel. I stepped back. I listened. And hopefully, I learned.

One day, I hope I'm not embarrassed by my mistakes. But until then, I'm still muddling through, trying to get better. Hopefully, my current work shows that. I'm optimistic that what I have in me is more than what's been seen - and that there really is something to be said for humility, maturity, and years of plugging away with no horizon in sight.

As cliche as it sounds, the struggle really did make me a better writer. And I hope a kinder, more thoughtful person.
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