|Photo by Steve Rogers Photography|
It's finally here! The release of my very first book, How to Eat a Lobster and Other Culinary Enigmas Explained, is TODAY!! I feel inspired to tell you the tale of how I got here. If you order my book, please review it on Amazon <3 And, take a selfie with your copy and tag @forking_up and #howtoeatalobster and you'll be entered to win a sweet tote bag!
In 1994, I was six years old. I'd just learned to read, and was devouring books as quickly as I could. I hadn't yet thought about writing any, since my handwriting was pretty crap and we'd only gotten through the early stages of how to spell actual words.
Jane Yolen, a nationally acclaimed author who has been called "The Hans Christian Anderson of the New World," lived in our little town of 3000. Each year, she'd hold a writing contest and pick a few winners per grade. I was in first grade, and I won a prize: An autographed book by a real, live, famous author. My book was called "My Garden and the Humongous Flower" a fantasy tale about the community garden plot my family had just rented.
|A more recent Jane Yolen Writing Contest group of writers|
Clearly, this meant I was the best writer in the entire class. Grade. Nay, the entire WORLD!--It is a great and powerful thing when you tell a child they're good at something.
I immediately got a journal for 200 tickets at the local arcade and started writing down poorly-spelled story ideas. Mostly sequels to my favorite books, or stories about unicorns or cannibalistic witches (I had a weird fascination with cannibalism as a child and I have no idea why) and soon started recording my daily life as well. After all, if I was going to be a famous author, people would want to read about my life.
|Jane Yolen (in the middle) and her daughter, author Heidi Stemple, at the Writing Contest they invited me to a few years back|
I didn't win a prize again until 6th grade, but that didn't stop me. While I told everyone I wanted to be an artist when I grew up, deep down I knew I wanted to write books. I don't think I even knew writing was something you could make money off of until I was in middle school.
In high school, thanks to two English teachers--one who never hid how much he loved and supported my writing, and another who kept his support more secret and challenged me because he knew it would make me better, both absolutely instrumental in making me a better writer--convinced me that writing was the career I should pursue. I graduated, and was awarded the Jane Yolen Scholarship, and set out to pursue a BFA degree in Writing, Literature, and Publishing at Emerson College.
|My first day at Emerson College, meeting my Freshman year roommate|
Emerson was amazing. I was surrounded by creative young people and I learned how to write in all different styles. I also learned how to be an editor, and decided working behind the scenes was probably a better career path than being the one in the spotlight. I thought graduation would bring me to a publishing house in Boston or New York City, but I found myself back home, hoping the journey would continue with a hometown boyfriend instead. I ended up taking a job in Marketing, since Western Massachusetts didn't have many publishing opportunities.
In the meantime, I began to blog. Somewhere along the line I'd developed a love of recipes and all things food, and I needed a place to keep it all. When The Lisa Ekus Group unveiled their Twitter Contest, Sign Me Sal, a March Madness-esque bracket contest where each round eliminated half of the entrants. You basically were tweeting them a book proposal, which I'd learned to do during my studies to be an editor.
|My agent, Sally and me at a chili cookoff!|
I made it through the first round. Then the second. Then the third. Then I was in the final two. And finally, I won. My dream was coming true! Jane Yolen even invited me to that same contest, to talk about my writing journey. I wrote about that amazing experience over at my old blog.
What followed was two years of my agent, Sally Ekus, working tirelessly to get me signed. A new author with just a handful of clips and a modest blog following is no easy sell. But she didn't give up. Eventually, Quirk Books approached her with a concept, and she introduced us.
The rest, is history. What followed was an amazingly collaborative effort with my editor and myself, that resulted in the beautiful book you see today. On shelves. In real bookstores. TODAY. Not to mention the incredible PR team that's already giving my little book a bunch of great press.
Today is book 1. I hope it leads to book 2, but I think that little girl with stars in her eyes crossing the stage to receive the first accolades for her writing would be proud of me either way.