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From Booklover to Storyteller: Have You Ever Wanted To Be An Author? a guest post by J. Elle

If you’re like me, when I was a teen, there was a vast difference between being obsessed with books and thinking I could actually write one. It wasn’t until much later in my life that I tried to pen a story and since, I’ve never looked back. I often wonder what life would have been like for me had I tried to pursue my love of storytelling sooner. 

The author as a teen

First, why hadn’t I? The answer is layered and a bit complicated, but the short of it is–I didn’t really think writing books could be an entire job; and the blips of moments when I’d suspend my disbelief and let myself imagine ‘what if’ a frequent stumbling block I’d hit was always: where would I even start? I love the epic worlds of fantasy adventure, finding magical worlds with spells, practicing those as a kid under my blanket at night, the made up creatures, the heart-throb romance… where do the ideas come from? It was all so daunting. How could I ever find something as cool and innovative as the books I’d read? I didn’t realize it then, but the answer was–by looking inside. 

I have this theory that stories live inside us, pulling at our subconscious, showing themselves to us  in bursts of creative inspiration. Everything from a TikTok skit to a bookstagram picture is a piece of a larger story, fueled by our individual imagination. And imagination is a funny thing. I like to imagine it akin to a bottomless well. When we dip our bucket down there, we pull out interesting things. And the more often we dip our bucket down there, we get better at angling the rope just right, filling the pail all the way up, bringing its contents to the surface with minor spills. And that’s how it worked for me. 

Wings of Ebony, my debut novel, centers around a character whose voice just popped in my head one day. She was vivid. I could see all her features, what she was wearing, the world that was around her. I could even feel the emotion she was grappling with–grief and feeling powerless. I put my fingers to the keyboard in that moment of clarity and let her tell me her story. Then, I revised and tidied it up for several (read: many) drafts and the result is what you have on shelves today. My next story, Park Row Magic Academy, about an inner-city magic school was another that came to me. That time, it was the plot that was quirky and cute and sounded like so much fun. I sat down to type and that story poured out of me in nine days. Nine. I’m still shook. It went through many rounds of revisions and you’ll be able to read that one as well in spring 2022! But understand I hadn’t truly realized there were stories tugging at me until I listened. I hadn’t realized writing was, well, my real life “magic,” in a sense. I just knew I loved all things books. So, reader, is there a story that lives inside you? Have you ever played with the idea of telling it, scratching its surface to see what you unearth? 

(I hope you’re nodding or if not, at least still reading. I’m convinced everyone is a storyteller, but even if you’re not and you just love books, there’s some valuable nuggets you can takeaway that I’ll tie together at the end for you. So, sit tight.) 

So, yes, you’ve toyed with the idea of writing. But the big question that stops you might be what stopped me back in 2018: Where does I start? With an idea? A vibe? A bunch of collaged aesthetics? Listening to inspiring music? Reading craft books? So, the answer is all of this. Or none of this. 

One of the coolest things about writing is that it’s not entirely formulaic. As an art form, it’s reliant on the creator to give it life, meaning, shape. So, start with an idea if you have one or a favorite song. Or peruse Pinterest and collage pictures until you feel inspired. Binge your favorite movies, books, shows. There is no right or wrong as long as you’re listening for that whisper of inspiration. That needling feeling that you might have a character or world or dilemma that could be fun to explore. 

Next, you sit down, and you write. Sure, there are ways to outline and research and prolong the writing process. But, at the beginning the biggest obstacle most writers face is just getting words on the page. And finishing a story. The story can be terrible, and no one may ever read it. But if you’ve ever ran a marathon or hiked a really tall peak or done anything that seemed really hard at first you’ll know what I mean when I say–it’s always harder the first time. Finishing your first story proves to yourself that you can do it. And that confidence is what will fuel you to keep going when you revise or start the next one. 

So that’s my challenge to you, reader. Find the story that’s calling to you and consider writing it down! You never know what could come of it. I certainly didn’t. And here we are, ha ha. So, your turn. Go figure out your story. I can’t wait to read it! 

For those of you that aren’t storytellers in the making–don’t miss the heart of what I’m saying here. And how it applies to you, too. Writing was my passion. So, my admonishment to you is unless you absolutely have to, don’t wait until you’re thirty-five to pursue the things you love. Dare to do it now, with the entire world ahead of you. There’s a magic in marrying what you love with what you do for work. Maybe that’s not writing for you, maybe it’s not even book related. But hold on to those things you enjoy, nourish the things that bring a smile to your lips just thinking about them. That just might be your magic! And the thing about tapping into your magic is it gives just as much to you as you give to it. 

Meet the author

Photo credit: Chris Spicks Photography

J.Elle is the author of the instant New York Times and Indie bestseller Wings of Ebony, a YA novel about a Black teen who must lean into her ancestor’s magic to protect her inner-city community from drugs, violence, and crime. Ms. Magazine calls it “the debut fantasy we need right now.” Elle is a former educator and first-generation college student with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism and a Master’s in Educational Administration and Human Development. When she’s not writing, Elle can be found mentoring aspiring writers, binging reality TV, loving on her three littles, or cooking up something true to her Louisiana roots. 

About Wings of Ebony

Instant New York Times bestseller!

In this riveting, keenly emotional debut fantasy, a Black teen from Houston has her world upended when she learns about her godly ancestry and must save both the human and god worlds. Perfect for fans of Angie Thomas, Tomi Adeyemi, and The Hunger Games!

“Make a way out of no way” is just the way of life for Rue. But when her mother is shot dead on her doorstep, life for her and her younger sister changes forever. Rue’s taken from her neighborhood by the father she never knew, forced to leave her little sister behind, and whisked away to Ghizon—a hidden island of magic wielders.

Rue is the only half-god, half-human there, where leaders protect their magical powers at all costs and thrive on human suffering. Miserable and desperate to see her sister on the anniversary of their mother’s death, Rue breaks Ghizon’s sacred Do Not Leave Law and returns to Houston, only to discover that Black kids are being forced into crime and violence. And her sister, Tasha, is in danger of falling sway to the very forces that claimed their mother’s life.

Worse still, evidence mounts that the evil plaguing East Row is the same one that lurks in Ghizon—an evil that will stop at nothing until it has stolen everything from her and everyone she loves. Rue must embrace her true identity and wield the full magnitude of her ancestors’ power to save her neighborhood before the gods burn it to the ground.

ISBN-13: 9781534470675
Publisher: Denene Millner Books/Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Publication date: 01/26/2021
Age Range: 14 – 18 Years

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