Some chapters have unexpected twists. Like the one about a girl who didn’t learn how to read until high school but went on to become an author.
After being stunted by a first-grade teacher who failed to notice I never did any of my work (and then also failed to tell anyone once she realized it), I was passed on to second grade with no reading or spelling skills to speak of. I was rightfully held back in second grade. In my second year of second grade, I still struggled greatly but was passed on. My third-grade teacher didn't wonder at all why I couldn't keep up, only accused me of not paying attention, so she would send me to sit out in the hall to think about my actions while continuing to teach the rest of the class.
My brother, the complete opposite of me, was at the head of his class and a city spelling bee champion. While I watched him read eight hundred-page books in a day or two, I could barely read eight pages in a week. I felt discouraged, to say the least, and destined for failure unless I could find a way to at least tread the water.
Eventually, with a lot of help from “Cliff,” I was able to pass quizzes well enough that they carried the lower test grades. By the grace of God, or a strange stroke of luck (or more likely, my secret ability to forge intelligence), I ended up in AP classes in high school. It was only at the end of twelfth grade when I confessed to my guidance counselor (and then my parents!) that I lacked even the basic skills everybody thought I had.
I look back on this series of events and am still dumbfounded at how I became a published author. You’ll be (un)surprised to know that many others have the same question.
Well. . . In seventh or eighth grade, I had an English teacher who assigned a creative writing assignment to write a one to two-page story with descriptive words. Even at that early age, the story from TOUCH was already playing in my head, and the assignment gave me an outlet for it. It was a scene early in the book that I chose to write for that assignment (interestingly, one of the only ones I kept through my countless rounds of editing and is, for the most part, still intact today). I enjoyed the assignment so much—which was strange because there wasn't a piece of schoolwork I ever enjoyed outside of art—that once I finished it, I ran with it. I had never been so excited about doing something in my life. I was an introvert with few friends and little to put my creative energy into, but when this started, I’d go straight home from school and fly through the homework I had always procrastinated doing just so I could get back to writing the story. I filled one yellow legal pad after another, writing entirely with a calligraphy pen because I was practicing that skill too. (It wasn’t very good calligraphy, but it was with a calligraphy pen, so it counts!) Eventually, I got to a point where I decided it needed to be more legible, so I paid my brother 50 cents a page to type it out for me. He was academically inclined and a prolific reader, so it was easy money for him.
When high school hit, along with all the other stress that comes with life, writing fell by the wayside (I actually forgot all about it). Years went by and life went on. I married my high school sweetheart and had my first child—my son—at twenty-seven (technically, not in that order). As I tried to adjust to life as a new, stay-at-home mom, I came across the legal pads tucked away in a box in my basement and recalled just how much I enjoyed writing. The day after my son's first birthday, I sat down at my computer and picked up transferring my handwritten mess from where my brother left off. My writing journey took off at a feverish pace after that. I ate, slept, and breathed writing (when I wasn't caring for my young child—eventually, children with the addition of my daughter).
I tried several different routes to publishing, which led to more rejections than I should admit. After fifteen years of blood, sweat, and tons of tears, I finally allowed my son to read it when he was sixteen (almost three years older than I was when I originally started writing it). Knowing all I put into it and all my failures up to that point, he told me he thought I should stop everything I was trying to do and publish it independently because it was just as good, if not better, than his favorite, best-selling book at the time. Come to find out, it was that one little kick in the butt from him—the actual “audience” for the genre—that I needed. I took his word for it, and the rest is history.