The start of spring semester brought new classes, new projects and new stress factors, but for some students taking Editing Essentials, a bombshell dropped on the first day; they would write and publish a book on Amazon by the end of the semester.
Stephen Henderson, the Editing Essentials professor, first introduced the book writing project after reading a poorly written, self-published book on Amazon.
“My students can do better,” he said in class.
The project has been a part of the curriculum for a couple of years, but some students still found themselves caught off guard when they first heard the news.
Writing a book is new for many students in Henderson’s class, yet, with varying levels of confidence, the students this semester brainstormed, procrastinated and wrote their longest piece of work yet.
“What have I gotten myself into?” thought Cameron Doyle, a junior studying communication.
Inspiration did not strike Doyle on the first day. She toyed with the idea of writing a fictional piece but ultimately settled on her mother’s story as the daughter of a Holocaust survivor.
Her grandfather only spoke Romanian while her mother, growing up in California, only spoke English. They have journals and letters addressed to him, but they are all written in an unfamiliar language. Doyle grew up hearing her mom’s stories and began putting together what she remembered.
She felt nervous as she began and asked herself many times if she would still want her book published for the world to read in a few years.
“In all honesty, I don’t have much trust in my writing,” Doyle said. “But I guess I’ll never know unless I put it out there for people to read.”
Writing about the mystery surrounding her grandfather’s story has given her the opportunity to try and crack the case, something Doyle aims to do more of in the future as an investigative journalist.
According to reedsyblog, a few famous authors, such as Ray Bradbury and Arthur Conan Doyle, have written books in as little as a few weeks. Other authors, such as J.K. Rowling, J.R.R. Tolkien and Scott Fitzgerald, took years to write one book.
The average age of a first-time published famous author, based on the data provided by books on the wall, is 28 years-old.
With only nine weeks to research, interview and write her first draft, 22-year-old Kyli Briscoe, a senior studying communication, questioned if she would have enough time to write a book amidst all the assignments from her 19-credit course load.
Briscoe loved writing from a young age and keeps a pink notebook to jot down random thoughts to potentially write about. This semester she decided to write a compilation of customer service experiences.
“That’s all I’ve dealt with in my jobs,” Briscoe said. “And I know a lot of my co-workers have crazy customer experience stories too. I thought it would be kind of funny.”
Briscoe is not proud of the product yet but has found a therapeutic release in sarcastically writing the “could-have-would-have” retorts to customers. While it has been hard painting the scenes and creating the dialogue from someone else’s experience, it has become easier to sculpt her story as she writes.
Still, Briscoe feels a little freaked out about publishing her book.
“I plan on writing more books, and I’m not sure I want this book with my name on it,” Briscoe said.
Excited for the opportunity to write her first book, Ashley Chilcutt, a junior studying English, began brainstorming ideas as soon as Henderson ended class the first day.
“I think a lot of us have an itch for a certain topic,” Chilcutt said, “We just aren’t brave enough to pursue it.”
Halfway through her mission in Hungary, a series of events left feeling long-lasting depression –– something she had never struggled with before. Eventually, Chilcutt was sent home early with the notion that she was “too expensive” to stay.
Based on her personal experiences, she felt the itch to write about early-return missionaries. Later Chilcutt felt the challenge of the project as she sat down to start writing.
“What does a book even look like?” she asked. “With an essay, you generally have an intro, some body paragraphs and a conclusion.”
She tried to find the balance between sharing her own experiences and being relatable. Chilcutt also debated how deeply into her brain she wanted the audience to go.
“I’m actually surprised at how uncomfortable I feel when I write since it’s something I’ve wanted to do since I was little,” Chilcutt said with a laugh. “It makes me feel like an oxymoron.”
Chilcutt’s discomfort stems from being a novice, but she is determined to take the challenge seriously.
“Just like they say ‘Never trust a slim cook,’ never trust a writer who doesn’t write,” Chilcutt said.