Five years ago, I was browsing around the Young Adult section of the Waterstones store in Piccadilly.
I’d just self-published my first novel for young adults, Dear Dylan, and my head was full of dreams.
The dream that one day Dear Dylan might be stocked in a store like Waterstones.
The dream that one day I might become a recognised YA author.
The dream that one day I might get a ‘proper’ book deal for my YA novels.
But standing there as a self-published author, those dreams all felt so far away.
The fact is, stores like Waterstones hardly ever stock self-published books – and certainly not in bulk.
And without being stocked in stores, how would I ever raise my profile as a YA author?
Then I spotted the spine of a book that looked a little different from the others so I pulled it from the shelf.
The book was called The Sky is Everywhere and it would be no exaggeration to say that it was a thing of beauty (or at least it was for a Certified Book Nerd like me).
The cover was sky blue and had a fabric feel to it, with the title indented in white, like wisps of cloud.
When I opened the book, I actually gasped at how incredible it looked. (I did warn you I was a book nerd…)
Instead of the usual black, the font was in blue, in keeping with the sky theme. And the text was interspersed with the beautiful photographs of handwritten poems.
The imagination and attention to detail involved in producing a novel like this exuded a real love for the story.
A real love for books.
A new dream entered my head: a dream that one day I would have a publisher who felt this passionately and imaginatively about books
I made a note of the publisher’s name: Walker Books.
I bought the book.
I took it home – and devoured it in one sitting.
It was exactly as good as it looked.
The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson became my all-time favourite novel.
And for the next five years I regularly dipped into it for inspiration.
Nelson’s poetic prose became a constant reminder to me of just how magical writing can be. And how well-drawn characters can come to be much-loved friends.
Inspired by The Sky is Everywhere, I started achieving the dreams from that day in the book store.
I received ‘proper’ book deals for five young adult books with two wonderful publishers.
Then, a couple of months ago, my agent, Erzsi Deak, sent out an extended sample of a novel I’d been working on called The Moonlight Dreamers.
Normally it takes a couple of weeks at least to start hearing back from publishers.
A few days after the manuscript was sent out, I got a text from Erzsi.
“I NEED TO TALK TO YOU!”
The last time I got a text like that it was over something semi-apocalyptic, so I did what every Brit does in times of potential crisis – I made myself a cuppa.
Then I had a bath.
Then I had some dinner.
And then I called her.
‘We’ve had a pre-empt!’ she yelled.
‘A pre-emptive offer. For The Moonlight Dreamers. From Walker.’
Instantly, I thought back to that day in Waterstones and my eyes filled with tears.
The people who had published The Sky is Everywhere wanted to publish my book.
It’s been a long and winding – and at times bumpy – road, but my final dream from that day in the store had come true.
A month or so later, I went to the Walker office to meet the team.
The first thing I saw when I walked through the door was a pile of copies of Jandy Nelson’s new novel, I’ll Give You the Sun.
‘Would you like one?’ my new editor, Mara asked.
Being handed that book was one of the happiest moments of my writing life.
And it reminded me yet again that you should never give up on your dreams – no matter how long and winding and bumpy the road becomes.
Just keep taking one step after another in their direction.
Find a source of inspiration to light the way.
And one day, just maybe, you’ll have the magical experience of realising that you’ve arrived.
For inspirational posts delivered straight to your inbox, click the FOLLOW button on the right.
You might also like: