Happy National Authors Day!

A recent photo of me posing against a railing in front of a lush pond. I'm smiling off to the side of the camera in my best imitation of someone who doesn't hate being photographed.

It’s funny to wonder if I always wanted to be an author. In many ways, I didn’t. I wanted to be a veterinarian, an architect, a fashion designer, a sustainable farmer, a linguist, and for one strange moment, a U.S. federal agent. I never took an English class in college, and the thought of majoring in creative writing didn’t even cross my mind.

In other ways, though, I always knew. I started writing my first novel in fifth grade with my close friend—the story of a young woman who could transform into a dragon, what else?—and I made my first attempt at National Novel Writing Month as a sophomore in high school. It only occurred to me a few hours ago that that year—November 2011—would have been exactly ten years ago, today.

Over the course of the next decade, I started a dozen more novels. I filled most of my free hours either reading fiction or writing it. When my best friend would come to my house, she’d bring her laptop, a latte, and Starbucks cake pops to share. We’d sit in silence for hours, typing. I loved writing more than almost anything. But I didn’t think I wanted to be a writer.

Why not? Well, lots of reasons. Perfectionism. Imposter syndrome. Cautionary tales about English majors who couldn’t find work after college anywhere but at a coffee shop.

So I never took seriously the idea of being a writer. Too much pressure. Too much stigma. Not enough job security. Worst of all, what if I ran out of ideas?

Somehow I ended up working at a coffee shop anyway. (I loved it, incidentally. I’ve never met a barista who wasn’t an incredible, multi-talented human.) If that was the “worst case scenario”—the end of the cautionary tale—then suddenly pursuing writing didn’t seem like such a terrible risk after all. I signed up for a writing class. It changed my life.

Does that seem like too bold a claim? I promise you, it’s true.

For the first time, after two and a half years of grad school, I can see myself as a writer. I’ve written an entire novel, front to back. Not a bad one, either—I got the exciting news two weeks ago that both my mentors approved it (with glowing reviews), and just this evening I signed with an agent who is, in her words, “obsessed.”

What clinched it, though, was meeting some middle schoolers.

It’s National Novel Writing Month again, and a teacher friend of mine invited me to come speak to his seventh and eighth grade classes. They’re writing their own novels this November, and so I gave them a mini-course on character development last week as part of their planning/plotting process.

Trust me when I tell you I was not prepared to be introduced as “The Author” in front of a roomful of 13-year-olds.

It was awkward at first, like trying to step into a costume that hadn’t finished being constructed. Frayed seams, poking pins, and all that.

But as I sat down to talk with the students, as I listened to them share their story ideas and saw the light of creative passion shining in their eyes, I got it.

Oh. I’m “The Author” because they need to see who they could be.

At the end of November 2011, I saw Christopher Paolini speak at my local bookstore. He’d always been an idol of mine; I adored Eragon, and the fact that he was fifteen when he wrote it was something I held in the utmost reverence. That November, I was fifteen. And though seeing him didn’t stop any of those insidious doubts from creeping in, it was an image I held onto every time I sat down to write.

So to all the writers out there, published, unpublished, and still-in-the-closet, Happy Author’s Day.

Now, please enjoy this eminently cringe-worthy excerpt from my 2011 NaNoWriMo novel. The premise could pretty well be summarized as “NCIS feat. the X-Men, but in high school,” and these were the opening lines:

Kaia yawned as she stretched, tipping her battered wooden chair back so that it balanced precariously on its two hind feet. She glanced over at the old analog alarm clock in the corner just as it began to ring, its metallic tinging too loud in the silent cabin. With a flick of her wrist, she silenced it, wondering why she had bothered to set it when she had not even gotten in bed in the first place. She groaned almost inaudibly as she slowly swung her stiff neck from side to side, grimacing as her muscled strained and popped. Sighing, she once more glanced at the time. 7:14. She had been up all night. She stretched her arms towards the low wooden ceiling with more ominous popping noises as she stood, and shuffled, half asleep, towards the pile of clothes she called her closet.

As she stared blankly at the wrinkled mass of fabric, Kaia morosely reflected that she really needed to try this whole sleeping business. For the past three nights, she had not even gotten in bed. Not that it really affected her- Kaia could go weeks without sleeping- but it did make her rather stiff and irritable. And, after all, it had been for good reason. It was not like she stayed up all night just for fun. Kaia had been working non-stop, following up on leads about her target.

Rebecca Glazer, “Second Shot”

It’s good to be reminded that grad school was worth every penny.

2 thoughts on “Happy National Authors Day!”

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