Wednesday, July 19, 2017

A Teen Author's Journey To Publication - Guest Post by Kara Swanson

If you've read my blog for any amount of time now, then you probably know that I love to encourage young writers to pursue their publication dreams. Why is this? Because I, too, launched my career as a teenager -- and it's the steps I took at a young age that lead me to my dream career today. I'm passionate about encouraging young writers to use their time wisely by perfecting their craft. This is why I was thrilled to meet young author, Kara Swanson, at a writing conference recently. She is the perfect example of a teen writer who has found success through investing hours into studying, researching, reading, and writing. 

Kara is the author of THE GIRL WHO COULD SEE, an amazing novella published a little over a month ago and has received an incredible response from readers. I am proud to say that I have recently signed Kara on as a client at Hartline and am honored to accompany her on this writing journey. It's because of her hard work and perseverance that she attained publication, and she's stopping by today to share about what all this involved.


As the daughter of missionaries, Kara Swanson spent sixteen years of her young life in the jungles of Papua New Guinea. Able to relate with characters dropped suddenly into a unique new world, she quickly fell in love with the speculative genre and was soon penning stories herself. At seventeen, she independently published a fantasy novel, Pearl of Merlydia. Her short story “Distant as the Horizon” is included in Kathy Ide’s 21 Days of Joy: Stories that Celebrate Mom. She has published many articles, including one in the Encounter magazine. Kara received the Mount Hermon Most Promising Teen Writer Award in 2015.

My father would read to us every night before we fell asleep.

His literature selection spanned from Anne of Green Gables and To Kill A Mocking Bird, to Percy Jackson: The Lightening Thief. Then one day, he came into the room my brother and I shared, knelt below our bunkbed, and pulled a smooth volume out from behind his back. “This is going to be one of the best books you’ve ever read.”

He was right.

That book was The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. My introduction to Narnia—and the novel that convinced me I wanted to be a storyteller.

This scene will probably ring familiar to a lot of you out there who fell in love with Lewis’ whimsical world and intriguing sense of storytelling. Who found pieces of themselves reflected in the deeper themes. But for me, that night was unusual not only because it began a journey of telling stories that would touch imaginations and hearts—but because that story transported me out of the small tribe in the middle of the jungle where we lived.

My family were missionaries in a third world country called Papua New Guinea. I spent my childhood in a dense tropical rainforest—our house positioned on the edge of an airstrip that was the only way in or out of our tribe. When my father entered my room in that thatch house, ducking beneath the mosquito net that tunneled our bunkbed, the words he read whisked me away. Truly showed me how powerful writing could make such a small tribe seem infinitely bigger. And how a girl growing up in an exotic world that she didn’t completely belong in, could relate with four Pevensie siblings dropped into a whimsical and unusual land full of forces of light and darkness.

Those were the themes that found themselves woven into the stories I was soon penning. I’d always written—it was how I translated the world around me. But my love of the fantasy and science-fiction genres were really honed after Narnia. Years passed, and I continued to write more as a pastime than anything.

Then I met another missionary kid named Charis. She too loved to write, and together we co-authored a fantasy novel about Mermaids and pirates. At seventeen, we finished that novel, and it suddenly struck me:

I could do this.

I could finish a novel, create a complete story—and have it impact people.

That same year our novel was picked up by a small press called Entrust Source Publishers. They were able to distribute the novel on Amazon and other places…

Suddenly, at seventeen, I was a published author. And I loved it. Every bit of it—seeing my words strike people’s hearts, the editing process, marketing, cover design. All of it. The blood, sweat and tears.

I realized writing had become more than an escape or hobby—it had become a passion. A ministry. My God had given me something to say, and had equipped me to say it.

So I started honing my craft any way I could. I attended writers groups, found several critique partners, was mentored by a published author, went to every nearby writers’ conference, did book signings for my first book—and wrote, wrote, wrote. In the span of four years, I’d written six novels—and that’s not including rewrites and articles/short stories. It was hard, painstaking work. But I continued to push myself to get better and better, gaining as much input from other authors as I could.

I attended another writers’ conference, pitched some of those novels, and found interest from both agents and editors. I began the process to possibly being traditionally published—but everything in the industry takes time. A lot of time. About a year ago I wrote a small science-fiction/urban fantasy short story for a magazine. It ended up being too long for the magazine, and I decided instead to turn that short story into a novella. So that’s what I did! When that novella was finished, I decided to independently publish it.

I knew that the novella was too short for most publishers to consider, so it left me with the free reign to do it all myself. I wanted to push myself again, and learn as much as I could about the industry. I wanted this novella to be the best I could offer, so I had it edited and critiqued by over ten professional editors/published authors. I hired a professional cover designer. I had a team of beta-readers. I taught myself to format the novella for print (through CreateSpace) and for eBook (through Kindle Direct Publishing). I put together a launch team, scheduled a blog tour and ran several ads. I set up both print and eBook for pre-order.

I published that novella myself, to the best of my ability…

And it sold over 100 copies in the first week, has a 4.5 star rating on Amazon, and won a cover award.

By God’s grace, He has allowed this little story to make a difference. Because I’m an amazing author? No. Because the idea is something totally unique? No. Because I have a huge following? Also—no.

The novella is doing as well as it is for two reasons: because I gave it my everything. I poured my soul and my sweat into it. And because I serve a gracious God who works in spite of my limitations. A gracious God who saw a little girl in a remote tribe with the passion to tell stories—and allowed her to do so.

Just as He has put your passions in your heart. Just as He has equipped you to chase them. It takes hard work and determination. It takes long nights and hard choices and hearing someone give you the harsh feedback you don’t want to hear—but it is doable. You can use your words—and your gifts—to touch people’s lives.

Because the One who created you gave you those gifts for that exact reason. To change lives, in whatever way you are courageous enough to chase after.

Thanks for stopping by today, Kara!

Readers: Where do you stand along your writing journey? Do you have any questions for Kara?

{Psst ... I'm stopping by Kara's blog today as well! Click here for the post.}

1 comment:

  1. Kara, this is so inspiring. I've heard about your book and have been sooo wanting to read it. I'm hoping to buy it soon. You've inspired me to really want to self-publish over traditional publishing. Your book looks amazing and I've heard so many good things from all my blogging friends.
    God bless you!


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