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  • Writer's pictureSusan Koehler

Four Steps Along the Path to Publication...

Many people dream of writing and publishing a book. And once you've completed that process, you get asked a lot of questions about your journey. There are many different paths to publication, but in honor of NaNoWriMo, I offer mine.

I’ve been a writer for as long as I can remember. As a kid, I made up stories, wrote songs, wrote poetry, wrote letters, etc. When I wasn’t reading, I was creating. As an adult, I continued to write for personal enjoyment, but my career focus became education. As a teacher, I LOVED teaching writing. And somewhere near my 40th birthday, when thinking about not being as young as I used to be, I remembered I wanted to BE a writer. So I asked for a laptop for my birthday, and I started writing. The first thing I worked on was about my early development as a teacher. It was (and still is) called “Lessons From the Classroom.” Step 1: Decide you want to be a writer.

Around the same time, I was working with an author who had written some professional books for teachers of writing. I was training with her so that I could be a consultant representing her work and training teachers to use her methods. One evening, at dinner, I felt bold enough to ask this author about her journey to publication. She told me all about it, and I took mental notes. Then she asked, “Why? Are you a writer?” The door opened. I told her about what I was working on and she told me to submit to her publisher with her endorsement. The publisher called and said, “This isn’t the kind of thing I publish, but I like your writing. Would you be willing to write a book about teaching expository writing?” And of course, I said yes. And that’s how I published my first book, Crafting Expository Papers, in 2007. Step 2: Make connections.

After a few professional books (which had a very specific demographic) and a few “write for hire” jobs I landed from another connection, I decided I wanted to focus on fiction. It took me eight years from that point to actually publishing my first middle grade novel. I had to learn, go to workshops, share with critique partners, and rewrite, rewrite, rewrite...until finally I felt ready to submit. I submitted to agents and even got some requests for the full manuscript, but I didn't actually land an agent. However, I knew someone who I really liked and respected who happened to own a little independent publishing company called Turtle Cove Press. And so I submitted it to her. And she accepted it. And my first work of fiction, Dahlia in Bloom, came to be. We had a sell-out, standing-room-only book launch at a most charming local independent bookstore called Midtown Reader, Kirkus Reviews gave it a starred review and named it one of the Best Books of 2019, and it was awarded Gold from the Florida Authors and Publishers Association (FAPA) and Silver from the Florida Writers Association (FWA). Step 3: Persevere.

At this point, I have two works of fiction published. My latest book, Nobody Kills Uncle Buster and Gets Away With It, is a fun mystery. Fun to write, and from the feedback I’ve received, fun to read. So now I’ve taken a leap of faith. After 36 years of teaching, I left the classroom. I’m writing for hire -- right now, that means lots of curriculum materials -- and during the dark and early hours of the morning, I’m working on my dream projects. With a flexible schedule, I’m able to do school visits and workshops, and I have a little bit more time to manage my online presence. I don’t know where I’m going next, but I know that Step 4 is DREAM BIG.

If you want to know more, please visit my website, You can find contact information, find links to my social media, read the rest of my blog posts, see my books, schedule an author visit, and you can even read a few installments of “Lessons From the Classroom,” that first real writing project that remains unpublished.

And if you dream of writing and publishing a book, remember: Decide you want to be a writer. Make connections. Persevere. And DREAM BIG!

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