The book that led to a journey

There are those books that change your life.

There are the books from your childhood that turn you into a reader, books that make you want to write stories of your own.

I’ve had many books leave a profound impact on me.  Books were what shaped my childhood. Books were my friends when I was a belligerent, stubborn child. Books gave me my imagination, and stories are one of the things I value most in life.

But there was that one book from two years ago–the book that, in essence, changed my life. I’m not much a person who emphasizes on milestones, but to answer the occasional question of “what was the thing that made you write?” this would definitely be one of the answers.

2012. I was in middle school. About a year before, I had written my first novel ever–a fantasy novel that involved my childhood trademark of erratic magic and inexplicable, tangled plots. My dad was gently encouraging me to think of publication–but at that time, I was still a child. I didn’t know who to reach out to, and I had no idea of any sort of “trend” or protocol to become published. I loved writing, but I felt…almost burned out by the outdated fantasies I was scribbling down.

It was March. It was raining outside the window, the day before Spring Break. I was in the school musical production, and I remember making my way to the school stage area, reading for another day of practice. I clutched in my hand a book that my wonderful librarian had introduced to me.

Rehearsal break. I was off for the next few scenes. I cracked open the book.

“My mother thinks I’m dead.”

It was early 2012. As the words and pages went on to paint a thrilling story of dystopian Los Angeles, and introduce two characters that I immediately fell in love with–Day, the street-smart, Robin Hood rogue, and June, the brilliant military prodigy. It led me through a refreshing, thrilling plot unlike anything I had ever read before.

I finished the book that day.

I don’t know how to adequately describe the feeling you have after you flip through the last pages of great book. It’s the feeling you get when you come close to the end of a journey, or lose something you once loved. It’s the hollowness in the pit of your stomach, like the book took a part of you. The afterglow of the story is still sweet on the tip of your tongue, like an aftertaste–but the book is over. The story, the characters–they’re over.

Only this time, the hollowness lasted. All through Spring Break.

Legend, by Marie Lu, was the first book that I read and recognized as YA–even though I had read others like The Hunger Games and Divergent before. Legend somehow clicked with me in a way that other stories couldn’t–and it impacted me greatly. It introduced me to a new style of writing and a new genre–for which I am forever grateful. It opened me up to a wonderful community of authors–and it set me on the track to write and read more YA.

That summer, writing came back to life for me. I started brainstorming stories. I did Camp NaNoWriMo and wrote a (copycat) novel that in general was a terrible mess–but I also went through I process that I loved dearly. I proved to myself that I could write another novel. I proved to myself that I could write a novel within a month.

And that fall, I wrote a novel that would become TeaNovel.

So many things have happened within the two years, from March 2012 to now, March 2014. I started reading and writing YA novels. I did NaNoWriMo, and won it three times. I started looking into the industry and learned about YA styles and trends. I attended a conference. And now I’m querying TeaNovel and I’m looking for possible future publication in the books I continue to write. I’m a serious writer now.

It’s strange and amazing, how something this big all started from the one special book that inspired me.

I finally got to meet her in November. I was now in high school and she was on tour for the last book in her Legend series, Champion. Since I was dead last in the long signing line, I was afraid that once I got to her, I wouldn’t be able to talk to her for long. I had been waiting to see her for two year–but when I got to her, my mind kind of blanked.

What ended up coming out of my mouth was a long-winded ramble of how much her books and her writing affected me, how I was now an aspiring author, etc. Insert some fangirl squeaks and a measure of incoherence.

She was so, so gracious. She listened to me. She hugged me. And now this hangs on my wall.

Marie Lu, thank you. Legend was a book that inspired me two years ago, and I am forever grateful to you for that.

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