Erika Buiter — Staff Writer
At 7:30 p.m. on March 27, Kuyper Loft filled with Dordt students, high schoolers and community members ready to participate in conversation with published authors.
But the authors were absent.
Event organizers Anna Jordan and Professor Howard Schaap paced and texted, trying to find the missing authors. Chips and salsa sated the crowd–and 30 minutes later, the authors arrived, late from a prior event. For Jordan, their arrival signified the culmination of months of planning.
“The English profs are wonderful at teaching us how to write, but something that’s been neglected is how to publish our writing,” Jordan said. “As president of the Writing Club, I wanted to give new writers a chance to learn how to publish from real authors.”
The event featured a quartet of authors: Nicole Baart, Kimberly Stuart, Tosca Lee and Kate Brauning. Of the four, both Baart and Brauning attended Dordt; Baart’s husband, Aaron, serves as Dordt’s Dean of Chapel. Seated on four raised chairs before several packed rows of attendees, the authors smiled, chatted with each other and settled in for an hour of questioning.
Jordan moderated the event, tossing out questions about how they got into writing and publishing.
Stuart, a former Sioux County native, initially had no aspirations to become a writer.
“I didn’t start writing fiction until after I had my first kid,” Stuart said.
For her, writing became a way to stay busy. But for Baart, her journey to publishing had a more Cinderella-like arc. After her husband talked her up to a publisher on vacation, Baart wrote her first novel.
“I had no idea how to write a novel, but I plunked out 50 pages and sent it to my husband,” Baart said. Her husband handed the manuscript to the publisher in person.
“She was furious,” Baart said. “That’s not how you’re supposed to do it.” The publisher set Baart’s manuscript in her “slush pile,” or stack of unsolicited manuscripts. Months later, after reading Baart’s work, the book was picked up, and Baart’s writing career began.
For Lee, a career in writing wasn’t on her radar. She had aspirations of being a ballerina, but an injury and college changed her interests. After writing her first manuscript, she “was hooked.”
“I wrote my first novel, and it took about six years for me to finally sell it,” Lee said. Her advice to the crowd? “Write the book, and then you get your agent, and then you get your editor.”
Brauning, on the other hand, always knew she wanted to write.
“When I was 12, I was essentially writing fanfiction,” Brauning said. “It was one of the things that let me get away from all the rules, to write for me, and write to love it.”
After playing with fanfiction for years, Brauning turned her pen towards novels.
“A first book is kind of like a first child–a practice round,” Brauning said. ‘How We Fall’ was the second book she wrote after college. “I wrote it in six weeks.”
Those weeks produced a 60,000 word manuscript, which is now an 80,000-word published work sitting in a neat pile on the table of books for sale by the authors.
“Six weeks?!” Stuart said, jaw dropping. “6,000 words in a day is a blistering pace.”
Attendees leaned elbows on rows of tables, eyes focused forward on the four women as non-traditional publishing paths, letting others read your work, writing strategies, and more were discussed. Some chimed in with questions of their own; others were content to sit back and listen. Anneke Wind, a senior English: Writing major, came because she wants to write books one day.
“I liked what Kate said about central ideas, because I struggle a lot with that in my writing,” Wind said. “Knowing what the story is about at its core, and letting it grow from there, is really good.”
At 9:10 p.m., the questions ended and students flocked to the table of books to make purchases and chat further with the authors.
“It went amazing. I’m so impressed,” Jordan said. “Publishing is terrifying and amazing all at once. If you can do it, you should do it and have no fear.”