Behind the Story

Submitted into Contest #46 in response to: Write a story about an author who has just published a book.... view prompt

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General

I stared at my paperback book with the sky-blue background and a simple yet lovely curved strand of pearls on the front cover. At the top, in elegant cursive was the title of my poetry book, Making Pearls, and underneath was my nom de plume. I turned over the book to the back cover, slowly rereading the note that all proceeds from this book would go towards funding college scholarships in my local community for students whose parents were not able or chose not to contribute to their education. Gently I flipped through the pages of the book and inhaled the new book smell. This was the first copy of my first published book.

“So how does it feel to be a published author?” Anna asked me, giddy with delight.

“Getting the books printed is the easy part I think,” I said as I looked up at my friend. “Generating enough interest to get people to buy the book in order to have enough money for decent college scholarships will be the hard part...”

“You'll be fine; once people start reading they won't help but spread the word about your book and mission.” Anna placed her right hand on my left shoulder and squeezed it lightly. “Don't underestimate yourself.”

Quietly a short sigh escaped my lips. “Anna, I hope you're right.”

*******

I was eighteen years old and in my senior year of high school when I found out that my best friend from high school wasn't going to have any financial support from her parents for college. She had multiple siblings and a few other relatives all under the same roof; her parents couldn't afford both college bills and food on the table. My heart ached for her, but I also understood the underlying circumstances. Even with the results of the FAFSA, she would likely have a lot of college debt.

Not too long after that, I discovered that my closest friend from Bible camp wouldn't receive any help to pay for college either. His four older brothers also didn't receive any money for college, yet from my standpoint his family was more well-off than mine. Later that year his family spent an extensive amount of money to redo their lawn. It made my blood boil, although I never expressed my opinion to his parents. I believe the most important investment that parents have is their children, not a pretty backyard.

As to my own circumstances, my family and I didn't have much but we made do with what we had. I worked part-time at a local McDonald's to save up for college. My dad worked two jobs to put food on the table. Meanwhile my mother worked at a local department store until the Black Friday of my senior year of high school. She gave her two weeks’ notice exactly fourteen days before she quit her job after her managers repeatedly refused to let her take time off to care for my grandmother and my uncle. Even with the reduced income, my parents chose to help me with some of my college expenses.

Although I wanted to help my two friends, I felt powerless since I couldn't afford to help them and pay for my own education. That day I vowed I would create a college scholarship to help students who couldn’t get financial assistance from their family . At the time, I assumed I would have to wait until I was retired or won the lottery before I could establish the scholarship.

*******

I was twenty-four years old when I started to write poetry again as a form of cathartic release, which was a hobby I didn’t spend time on since high school. At first I just wrote about my feelings. Eventually I wrote about other topics; my inspiration was from my life and daily events. While some writers have rules about their writing, I found that I had none. My inclination at the moment and topic dictated whether I used a rhyme scheme or wrote in free verse. Alliteration and allusion were my favorite techniques to utilize, but they didn't appear in all of my poetry. I showed my poems to very few people, less than five in fact.

Fast-forward a few years to when I had the epiphany: What if I used my writing to fund the college scholarship program I promised to create when I was eighteen? What if I didn't have to wait until I was retired, won the lottery, or made a note in my will before I could set up a college scholarship? That was when I decided I would become a philanthropic author. I didn't want to use writing as a way to support myself, but to fuel the college scholarship program so others could pursue their future.

From there I contacted other authors I knew or met. I asked questions that ranged from how to structure a book, to differences in publishing companies, to even how much to charge per book. I wanted to make sure that the price I asked was reasonable. Also, I wanted to make sure that as much money as possible from each book could go towards the college scholarships. I wanted each scholarship recipient to receive at least a couple thousand dollars towards college, but that also meant I would need to sell a lot of books. While not everyone likes poetry, I found I also enjoyed writing short stories. The more book options that could catch a reader's interest, the more funds I could raise for the scholarship program. I also had to learn about self-marketing, which was easier said than done considering my introverted nature. What I found was other authors are supportive of one another's aspirations no matter what genre they specialized in.

*******

“Hello? Anyone home in there?” Anna waved her hands in front of me.

I blinked twice; my mind returning to the present once more. “Sorry Anna, I got lost in a train of thought.” I felt my cheeks turn a light shade of pink from my embarrassment from zoning out.

“What were you thinking about?”

“Everything it took to get to this moment...” I let out another soft sigh. “I hope that I can help a lot of people through my writing.”

“You will; I know it.” Anna smiled brightly at me. “So what do you want to publish next?”

“Well, I have a couple of children's stories that are complete. However, I need an illustrator who is willing to be philanthropic at least for the sake of my books. Who knows, maybe the extra publicity will help them out.”

Anna's eyes gleamed; she already had an idea. “I think I know of someone who can help with that. I'll introduce you to her and you can see what happens from there.”

“That would be great! Let's get to work.”

“First though, let's celebrate!” Anna reached for her bag and pulled out some of her freshly baked gluten-free chocolate chip cookies.  We feasted and chatted nostalgically and hopefully about my writing journey. Tomorrow, Making Pearls would be introduced to the world.

June 18, 2020 04:13

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