February 23, 2011

Friends in Soon to be High Places

Most of my Facebook friends have been following my frequent posts about a friend of mine who has been offered a three book deal with Crown publishers, a subsidiary of Random House. Her debut novel, THE INFORMATIONIST, will be released March 8th. My friend’s name is Taylor Stevens, and I’m going to tell you that “I knew her when”.

But before I tell you that, I want to tell you the story of a friendship between two writers. Writing can be a lonely job with no water cooler jokes, no lunchrooms, and no happy hours after work. No inside jokes between co-workers. While it’s most likely no longer a tablet and pen, it is a glowing screen and keyboard, and at times, nothing but white glow. Or with moments of writer’s block, maybe this: tgauh;psetuigbn;zjkfdj;hkawet after banging your fists on the keyboard, unable to adequately transfer anything from your brain to your screen.

But writers are a resourceful bunch and instead often gather on message boards and chat rooms and forums to kibbutz, share frustration and joy, and sometimes talk about nothing that has to do with writing, but maybe just personal fascination. About four years ago, on such a forum, I befriended a writer who had some fascinating posts about world travels and religion. We began to exchange private messages and eventually those messages led to long emails, instant message chats and then phone calls. I asked my friend if she had ever considered writing a novel, and she shyly admitted that she actually just finished one, would I be interested in reading it?

I was one of the first ten people in the world to read her novel and I actually went to a copy shop and printed all 200 or so pages of it on from the word document to paper and had it bound for easier reading and note taking. Clearly that shows my age and ability to deal with technology. But I couldn’t put down this cumbersome pile of paper, my friend’s baby, down. We writers do have that protective streak about our words. I knew my friend had shared something extremely precious with me. Time would prove to the world just how precious. 

The story itself is fascinating, but her backstory just as much. You see, my friend grew up in an apocalyptic cult and had no formal education from age 12 on. Every word she used, every paragraph she composed, past the rudimentary skills learned in primary grades was completely self-taught. Her desire for knowledge and information was so strong that when she broke free from the cult as an adult, she tried to make up for the education she never received. Her only marketable skill was weaving stories so she mastered the art of writing.

Writing a novel is something so many folks try to do that it’s not easy to actually get attention from anyone in publishing, which is why so many novelists self-publish. In order to reach a larger audience, a novelist first needs an agent, then a publishing house, then a lot of promotion. Even then the chance of success is slim. Most book stores go with a tried and true, proven best-selling author, unwilling to take a chance on an unknown.

Meanwhile, Taylor, with her fascinating personal story and equally riveting novel tried to make ends meet, selling cosmetics, hosting home parties, and working as a receptionist, while taking online courses to try to catch up with some of the education she should have had much younger. In our different chats and conversations, I helped revamp her resume and tried to grind through some algebra, to the point where I asked my own child how to work out a problem that I had long forgotten. Every little victory was quietly celebrated and when she was ready, she sent her novel to agents, and then came the offers of representation

The agent put the novel into the hands of a few editors, and one jumped at the opportunity to gamble on this new writer. The rest still isn't history. The novel, THE INFORMATIONIST, will release on March 8th. While the advance buzz is good, until it translates into sales, it's still a waiting game.

I’m so proud of the friendship we’ve built and the trust she gave me in reading her novel so long ago. I’m so proud of my friend’s dedication to excellence and education. So many take the gift of learning for granted and don’t realize what a privilege it is to learn in a formal setting. I want her novel to not just succeed but smash records and become a movie and household name. Maybe even action figures. Don’t just take my word for how great the novel is, instead, I encourage you to read about THE INFORMATIONIST here, here, or here.  Please follow along with her story at Taylor Stevens, Author  on Facebook and Taylor Stevens on Twitter.

What I really want for my friend, whose lifetime has seen more than her fair share of the dark side of the world, to see how bright and wonderful the world can be. I want her story told and her books to sell. We can make it happen together and I’m asking you to share this story of friendship and future success. If you believe in a friend, I ask you to help her make it happen. Let's ALL say... "we knew her when". 

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