by Emily Conrad
In eight grade, I fell in love in the consuming, head-over-heels, emotional-high kind of way. It all started in English class, but instead of being related to any of the cute boys who sat near me, this love was for penning short stories.
Mrs. Spellman dedicated a unit to creating short stories. I have no idea how long the unit was or how exactly she structured it. In my memory, we might as well have had an entire glorious semester with no other assignments. (Reality check: it was probably more like a week…) Perhaps that’s also when we read some other short stories–one I read in middle school (in that class, I think) still sticks with me. As I remember it, Mrs. Spellman encouraged us to go in the classroom closet and read our work out loud to ourselves. (I was too shy to do this. Yes. Too shy to read to myself in a closet.)
So there I was, given time to create, practicing the discipline of reading other writers, and learning the basics about self-editing. Did I mention it was glorious?
I’d done some writing prior to that unit, but after, fiction writing became an infatuation. I knew I wanted to be a writer.
Later, when I was on a college campus, preparing to attend, my mom and I met a student. Again, going on memories, I think the student had gotten one degree and her career of choice hadn’t worked out, so she was back in school, obtaining a different one. Her advice to me was to have a backup plan. When we told her I wanted to be a writer but was getting a college degree (in French, because I had a bunch of French credits by the end of high school), she said, “Oh, so this is your backup plan then.”
And it was a backup plan I used for years, leveraging that degree to land jobs that required a bachelor’s degree but weren’t concerned that my subject matter hadn’t been terribly practical.
In 2014, when my husband and I decided it was time for me to try full-time writing, I quit my backup plan, my day job. I told myself that this was like starting over, that despite all the work I’d done toward publication, jumping in full-time was like learning a new career. Since college degrees take about 4 years, I told myself I shouldn’t be surprised if finding publication (something I’d already been working on since high school) took me an additional 4 years.
In all honesty, I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised if it took longer than that, too. God has all of our timelines in His hands, in complete control.
Here we are three years and about ten months later, and yesterday–just yesterday–my debut novel went up for pre-order on Amazon (affiliate link) and Barnes and Noble. And that’s why I’m sharing the cover far and wide today.
But I couldn’t share it with you without mentioning that now-invisible eighth grade girl who first dreamed this direction.
She’s important because some loves endure through years of waiting and backup plans. She’s important because God has been faithful to her through all the twists and turns in her story, and He will continue to be. She’s important because she’s not yet done dreaming.
She’s also important because we all have the opportunity to be a Mrs. Spellman to others–and we may never know when we’ve been such an inspiration to someone, but we can trust that if we’re following God, He’s using us powerfully.
In fact, He’s used you, dear blog readers, to encourage me.
I’m grateful to God and to you for giving me the opportunity to share my words. I’m grateful because so many of you are celebrating with me and that eighth grade girl with the long, kinda poofy hair, the creepy teddy bear sweater, the loose leaf paper, and the hand-drawn front covers on her stories.
God isn’t done with her or her dreams yet. He’s not done with you or yours, either.
As one of my wise friends and critique partners reminded me this week, “the future is still ahead.” It seems obvious, but we forget that sometimes, don’t we? I do, but looking back on that eighth grader today, I remember.
May we all keep dreaming with Jesus,