You’re Only as Young as You Feel
A Guest Post by Cayla Kluver
When I was fourteen years old, I decided to start writing a book. It was supposed to be a small, first novel, around a hundred pages. When it was done, I named the 440-page beast Legacy.
I didn’t know if it was any good — I mean, I liked it, but I was what you might call a biased audience. So my mom read it, my sisters read it, my English teacher read it, my best friend read it, and they all said, “Cayla — you’ve got a long way to go.”
And that’s when the editing started. Seven months of it, of rewriting, reorganizing, fixing plot holes, of scratching out the dumb parts and adding better ones. I tried to get an agent, but had no success, in part because of the slush pile all authors battle, and in part because of my age. Out of hundreds of queries received each week, why would anyone read a fourteen-year-old’s writing over that of an experienced, credentialed adult? I couldn’t blame them.
But I could circumvent them. My mom and I started our own publishing company and released Legacy to a small audience ourselves. Through vigorous online marketing, the visiting of schools, libraries, and bookstores, and a lot of good fortune, we managed to catch the attention of AmazonEncore, Amazon.com’s new traditional publishing arm, who put Legacy out in hardcover for the first time this August.
I’m freshly seventeen now, and have had a lot of experiences for someone my age. I won’t say they’ve all been good, but they have all been educational.
From self-publishing, I learned what it’s like to effectively be a struggling artist; I learned what it’s like to be stepped on, to feel like you’re insignificant and overlooked. I also learned that you don’t just give up on something you love, and that the most important thing in life is to surround yourself with the right people. I wouldn’t be who or where I am without those people.
Since the Amazon deal, I’ve had a bucket-load of new trials and joys — my book has been handed to a wider readership, I’m now signed with my absolutely wonderful agent Kevan Lyon, and Legacy has even been sold in foreign countries. In addition, I’ve had to figure out how to deal with fame on a small scale, and it hasn’t all been candy and roses.
At first after signing the contract, I was exhilarated. Two days passed, and I was terrified. Would I get a slew of wretched reviews? Would my book be the subject of (metaphoric) burnings? But my biggest fear stemmed from my age: was the world going to hate me? There are a lot of people who are excited by the prospect of a young author, but there are also a lot of people who don’t think teenagers can cut it. I was completely aware of this going in, but completely unsure how to deal with it.
Today, I still have no idea how to deal with it. Today, I’m still terrified. But today, I’m also still alive, and I’m still writing, and I’ve realized that’s all I need to do. What I’ve always wanted is to be an author. The written word is my passion. I was never looking to be published as soon as possible. I was never looking to be some kind of phenomenon, and I don’t think I am. Hundreds of young writers have come before me and hundreds will come after, and probably thousands will be better at it than me. But I’m happy. And if my work can make even one other person out there happy, then I feel like I’m accomplishing all that I need to.
Thank you Cayla!!!