Happy Friday, Friends! I love to introduce you to my creative friends and feature their newest creations. I’d already interviewed Yancy before, so I asked her to write about her writing journey. I think you’ll love getting to know Yancy. After reading The Fox at the Door, I was so excited to hear about her newest release ~ a picture book entitled The Reluctant Owlet. Take it away, Yancy!
My path to writing was not a straightforward one, something that still surprises me, to this day. It’s surprising because I always knew I wanted to be a writer. I loved writing and books since I was a very young child.
By the age of 10, I was 100% certain of my destiny to become a writer. At the time, my parents decided to write a cowboy romance novel (a marriage of each of their favorite genres).They had decided to write under a pen name. They chose my first name and an old family name for their pseudonym: YancyJohns. They printed out business cards using that pen name; underneath the name was the word writer.
They had one of the business cards laminated and attached it to their new typewriter. When I looked at that card and saw my name and the word writer, I knew that was my destiny.
I spent my teen years writing novels in spiral-bound notebooks. That’s right – handwritten. We only had one computer back then and I had to share it with five other people. So if I wanted to spend most of my time writing, I had to do it by hand.
When I was 19, my uncle gave me his old laptop. It’s humorous to remember it now, that archaic machine that weighed close to 15 pounds. It was so large, it would never be called a laptop by today’s standards, but in 1996, it was quite sophisticated. I felt so lucky to have my own computer. I had finally become a real writer, clacking away at a keyboard that belonged solely to me.
By the time I was 26, I had written four or five complete novels. I was quite proud of a few of them, though too afraid to send them in to publishers. (It wasn’t quite so important to get an agent back then.)
One story really stuck with me. It followed a young man in his twenties who was trying to find a way to deal with a sister who had become an addict and was, by the time the novel started, in a coma after a car accident. When I was done writing the novel, I realized the character I had loved the most was the one in the coma – Mary Raedwolfe. I rewrote that book from scratch three times until it became what my readers now know as The Poison Box. But still, I was too shy to share it with others, so I left it on my hard drive, untouched, for many years.
By my thirties, though I can’t really say I had tried very hard to get published, I was so discouraged with writing that I decided to pursue my Plan B – teaching. If I couldn’t write, at least I could help the kids in my community get excited about writing! I thought I was done as a writer. I thought I would get married and have kids and keep teaching and that would be that. It was hard to let go of my dream, but it just didn’t seem to be going anywhere.
In 2010, I found that I wasn’t very satisfied with teaching. I needed to find another outlet for my creativity – preferably one that could supplement my teacher’s income. I’d always been very interested in nature and natural healing, and had struggled for decades with acne that I only ended up healing through homemade natural remedies concocted with herbs and organic oils. I knew I could help people dealing with similar struggles and feed my creativity by opening a bath and beauty shop on Etsy.
My little shop, Five Seed, was the joy of my life for the few years that it was open. I loved writing blog posts, product copy, and social media updates. I loved designing the labels and photographing the products in creative ways. And I absolutely adored mixing up different herbs and oils and waxes and turning them into finished, healing products.
I truly loved being a shop owner at the time. It was such a rewarding experience, and a true balm for my heart during a tumultuous time in my family life.
Unfortunately, my shop didn’t last long. In 2013, Etsy, prompted by the FDA’s new regulations, issued an edict that herbal shops could no longer talk about herbalism, healing, or even herbal folklore. Everything was off-limits except listing the ingredients in the products. As you can imagine, sales plummeted. The personality of my shop and educational aspect of it were lost. And really, who would buy a product with no listed benefits?
It took me a couple of months to really come to terms with what was happening, but ultimately, I decided to let the shop go. As the experience came to an end, many of my amazing, devoted customers asked me to share my skincare secrets in a booklet. I laughed, at first, at the thought of returning to writing…but eventually, the idea seemed like the only thing to do after the shop closed. Initially, I envisioned writing a short e-book. But as the months went by and I couldn’t stop writing, I realized that this was going to be a major project.
Once I was finished with the manuscript, I realized I had to figure out how to distribute it. I discovered Amazon’s platform and decided to start there. It took me almost a full month to format that book, but eventually, in October, I was able to release Soulful Skincare.
Some women imagine what it will feel like when they put on a wedding dress for the first time. I, on the other hand, had always dreamed of holding my first book. And let me tell you, it was everything I had imagined. I was exhilarated.
Somehow, I had become a writer.
It wasn’t the way I expected. I had always thought I would get a publishing deal and sell a novel as my debut work. Who knew that the universe would trick me into writing a self-published self-help book about acne, instead? It seems so funny to me now.
Once I’d gotten up my confidence, I pulled out the old manuscript that I’d held on to for so many years – The Poison Box. I think that sat on my hard drive, mostly untouched for twelve or fourteen years! Can you imagine how trippy it was to open it again and decide to finish editing it and put it out into the world? That was a big step for me.
And then, like any writer would, I kept going. There’s no end to our stories, after all.
My cousin’s untimely death prompted me to publish the journal I’d kept during my trip to France with her and my ex-boyfriend. Then I finished the project that I’d wanted to write as a companion piece to Soulful Skincare – a book about radically accepting the way we look. And then came the debut of my series of adult fairy tales (don’t get all hot and bothered – they are G rated but written for an adult audience).
Then I achieved a huge milestone, a goal I’ve had for decades: Writing a children’s book! The Reluctant Owlet debuted earlier this year. This story follows an owl family – one I had actually observed in the woods in 2017 – as the youngest owlet faces her fears about leaving the nest. I’m so proud of this book. I loved sharing the story of these real-life owls with others. I’m proud of the artwork, which was based on actual pictures I took of the owls. And my brother even contributed photographs to the book, which makes it extra special.
So here I am, knocking out an average of two books each year. An unconventional writer, I suppose, and admittedly, a struggling one. I have yet to be able to pay the bills with my work.
But for now, it’s more important to me to tell the stories. I think the rest will come in time. I’ve just got to keep my head down and write what I’m asked to write.
There’s no point in giving up, really. I’ve certainly learned that. I do love it, after all. Writing is one of the most important parts of my life. I couldn’t breathe without it, without my stories, without the characters who have become my dear friends.
I think that’s really what it means to be a writer. That you’re willing to surrender everything to the stories that come to you. That you fight for every minute you sit in front of the blank page. That you put all your energy into completing the stories and getting them out into the world where they belong.
There’s something of service about it. Or maybe just obsession. Either way, it doesn’t matter. I’ll still be typing away over here, no matter what happens. Just like I imagined when I was 10 years old. I already saw my cosmic business card way back then and it said, simply: Writer.
You can buy The Reluctant Owlet on Amazon
Read Yancy’s interview here.
Follow Yancy on Twitter @YancyLael