When you realize you need to start realizing your dream, and immediately.

I hope it’s not too terribly pretentious to declare I have always been a writer.

Since I was a little kid, I’ve been pulling stories out of my imagination and transferring them to paper. I can recall endless weekends at my grandparents’ lake house in the summer time; when every other red-blooded American child would be out splashing in the water and sunshine, I was curled up in a chair in front of my grandmother’s old computer (this is circa early 90’s, so use your imagination when picturing what that beast of a machine looked and acted like, DOS and all), clattering away on the keys, bringing characters and their motivations to life, and printing their sagas out on the glorious dot-matrix printer. You know what those looked like, too, I’d bet, with the perforated paper and the border pieces you’d tear off? Glorious.

I digress. I escaped into my brain often as a child, for the sheer enjoyment of it, and what emerged was usually entertained by my parents, my grandmother, and other members of my family. My grandmother, in particular, was a cheerleader to my writing, and I have appreciated her support in the years since.

In seventh grade, I wrote a short story for an English class assignment, a five-page requirement that turned quickly into twenty pages of what has since become my novel. After returning our assignments the next day, my English teacher, Mr. Kotsonas, pulled me aside. I thought I was in trouble, as I was frequently doodling or writing in my notebook when I was supposed to be paying attention.

Mr. Kotsonas pointed to the document I was clutching in my hand. “That, Jennifer,” he said, “Is what you should be doing when you’re an adult.”

“Mr. Kotsonas, I didn’t mean to… what?”

He pointed again. “That,” he said again. “Don’t stop working on that. Keep that up.”

He was a gruff man, my English teacher. But I have never forgotten those words. And he has earned a place on the dedication page for the novel I haven’t stopped working on since I received an A for that short story. The story that sparked something in an old man trying to teach grammar to seventh graders. I want him to be right about this. About me.

In any case, however many years later it is, I am quite ready to make something happen. I have experienced droughts along the way, in my creativity and in my resolve, draft after draft rewritten as my burgeoning voice waxed and waned, but meandering through this process has resulted in my first novel, Tsidyon, which is now 80% completed.

Tsidyon is a coming-of-age story, an adventure 051314_TSIDYON_FINAL 1story, that takes place in a fantastical world where magic is entwined with historical fact. It is a story of love, and loss, and growth and redemption. The two main characters, Tristan and Sebeyna, have led ordinary lives until they find themselves at the epicenter of a changing world, as their homeland is thrust into war where the odds are decidedly against them. To survive, the ordinary must become extraordinary. And the future of everything rests on an ancient secret that has been carefully guarded — and a secret that has been kept by Sebeyna herself, from all who love her — and that will change the course of their lives forever.

So there’s my pitch. 🙂 The novel still needs some work (the writing style definitely reflects my younger age in places) but I have lived with these characters for years, and I know them intimately. It sounds cliche, but we’ve laughed and cried together, experiencing the same joys, sorrows and comforts together. I’ve seen them through their best and worst times, and they’ve somehow returned the favor. It’s a peculiar happenstance that only writers can understand, and because of it, I won’t let them down.

untitledA note about publishing. One of my biggest obstacles (and over the years, it’s become a very real mental roadblock as well), has been the daunting idea of trying to publish via the traditional route. Agents, query letters, REJECTION letters, the bureaucratic red tape that perpetually surrounds the publishing giants that chew up and spit out little aspiring authors like me. The suffocating impossibility of it all led to some very real doubts that I’d ever be able to publish in the traditional sphere.

And then the self-publishing movement exploded. And here we are.

I don’t know why it never occurred to me before fairly recently, but the opportunity to maintain independent control over your creative output (a.k.a. life’s blood, sweat and tears) is the best thing that could have possibly happened to a writer trying to publish. Obviously, what you put out there must be finished, and must speak to its audience as you intended, but the self-publishing movement, through retail entities like Amazon, have transformed the publishing world, putting better odds staunchly in the writers’ corner. I am thoroughly convinced I would have escaped a lot of disillusionment, had the tools been available to me five or ten years ago… or had I been aware of them. But they’re available now, and I’m incredibly excited to officially begin this journey!

While the novel continues to develop (my goal is to have Tsidyon market-ready 6 months from now), I do have a few other projects that may materialize sooner. One is an anthology of short stories and poems as yet untitled. The other is a “mini-memoir” of a life-changing journey (both the physical and spiritual kind) I experienced on a volunteer trip to Moshi, Tanzania in 2010. It was developed from a journal I religiously wrote and then turned into a blog on which I posted occasionally while I was in-country (occasionally = when the Internet was functioning). “The Red Earth Sings Beneath Our Feet: My Journey to Africa and Back” will be available as a limited first release by October of this year.

In the meantime, I write. And write, and write. My heart is lighter because I’ve rediscovered the sheer joy of creating. The publishing dream is important, and gives me direction… but I have found my voice, and my imagination, again. And it is simply magical.

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