Almost fourteen years ago, I wrote my first novel.
I called it "YA Fantasy", but it really wasn't sure what it was, because I wrote it from two points of view: a 15-year-old boy and his 12-year-old sister. It rambled and word-vomited all over the place and included all the tropes, like magic stones and evil sorcerers and a boy who finds out he is heir to a throne. Oh, and star-crossed lovers, too.
Like all first novels, it's...embarrassing.
But, lo and behold, this one held a true magic I never could have foreseen. For it fell into the hands of a 10-year-old girl--and changed her life.
My daughter Maggie became a voracious reader as soon as she mastered phonics and started reading independently. I remember the day I first handed her The Hobbit. It felt like a rite of passage--and I was duly nervous. Would it grab her heart? Was she ready for Middle Earth?
"Let me read the first page to you," I said, "and you can decide whether or not you want to read this one."
So we sat on the landing of the steps leading into our family room, and I read her page 1--and she was hooked.
When she was 10, she read Lord of the Rings for the first time. At that point, I knew I not only had a bonafide bookworm on my hands, but also a hard core fantasy lover. Bestill my heart! So it was with great delight--and a bit of trepidation--that I handed her the pages of The Seeds of Perin Faye, fresh from my fingers and before a single word had been edited.
She loved it. She drew pictures (my first official fan art) and wrote letters to her favorite characters, asking them to please write back.
This book--the first of a long series of novels destined never to be published--made my daughter want to WRITE NOVELS. And so she began.
Her first work was derivative. Of course it was, because that's how children learn to write. It embarrassed her later, but I assured her that, oh, it was absolutely what she was supposed to be doing.
As she grew, her writing matured. In her middle teens years, she was already blowing me away with her natural sense of pacing and ability to create in-depth characters. Twice, when she entered critiques on my blog, she received a request from an agent (which she had to decline, since her novels weren't even finished!). As I muscled my way through my own writing journey, I was blessed to watch Maggie growing as a writer, too.
And oh. So proud.
At 16, she founded an online community for teen writers called Write On! She was a great leader, and she met some wonderful friends along the way. But alas, the teen years don't last forever, and as Maggie prepared to start her college career, she had to leave the online community behind.
She rocked the college thing (and now holds a Bachelor's degree in Psychology), but in between studying and working and commuting to school, there was no time for writing. And so she set it aside.
I understood, but I was sad. I'm a hard critic, but I'd felt from the beginning that Maggie had something special. She wasn't there yet, but I believed with all my heart that she'd get there.
So I waited.
Every once in a while I'd say something like, "So, are you writing at all?" or "Hopefully you can get some writing done this summer." But mostly I stayed quiet. I knew that, like all things, the writing would resurface when the time was ripe.
"I'm writing again." Just like that, it happened. At first, she was reading through her stuff, finding her bearings. And then, suddenly, she was revising what I thought was her strongest work--a YA contemporary I'd critiqued for her a few years earlier.
I had no idea how hard she'd been working until she told me she'd finished the revisions, and would I please critique it for her.
I pretty much dropped everything. And it was worth it.
This. Story. It made me sob (and I'm generally not the cry-at-books type). It made me keep reading past the time I'd told myself I needed to stop. It made me see that EVERYTHING I BELIEVED ABOUT MAGGIE'S WRITING WHEN SHE WAS YOUNGER HAD COME TRUE.
I gave her my notes and told her I felt that, after another revision, the novel would be ready to query.
So she got straight to work. We met at Starbucks to discuss my notes. She worked diligently every day during her lunch breaks, and whenever else she had time to write. She even entered a pitch contest on my blog last month and received a request from one of the agents.
And now? She's officially querying. I'm almost as excited about this as if it were me.
Someone's going to fall in love with this story--and sell it. And you're going to see her name on the shelves among your favorite YA authors. You'll read her book and you'll cry and cheer and sit on the edge of your seat until your bottom's numb.
And I will be standing on top of something very tall shouting, "THAT'S MY DAUGHTER!"
You know--the one who decided to be a writer because she read my very first novel. And fell in love.
This woman? She's my biggest fan, my strongest supporter, my voice of reason when I'm flailing, my source of encouragement when I need that little boost. And her journey began when mine did, all because the world and the characters I'd created stoked her imagination and inspired her to jump right in and try her own hand. What an honor to have played that role in her life!
Truly, we never know who our words will touch, or how they will be touched. Had I never written another story, the effort of having written just one novel would have reaped its reward.
Keep your eye out for books by Maggie Boehme! And Maggie--thank you for being one of the brightest stars in my universe.
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