Story Of A Girl

This is the story of a girl… who had a hobby…and no clue where she would end up.

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On a Wednesday in 2009, I dropped my kids off at school and drove to my local Barnes & Noble. I had the day off of work and wanted to get some writing done.

I wasn’t a writer, though.

At the time, I was a reader, a painter, and a loan officer at a credit union, but I wasn’t a writer. I wrote as a hobby. Nothing more.

On that particular Wednesday, my plan was to work on a story I’d started about superheroes (kind of like X-Men, but more romantic—it was really lame).

My local B&N bookstore is beautiful. It’s two stories tall, with windows everywhere, and it’s the perfect place to write.

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When I arrived, I headed upstairs to an area I called the “study lounge.” (I called it this because there were a ton of desks, chairs, and overstuffed couches everywhere.) I searched the B&N “study lounge” for a spot to write and found that every seat was taken except one: a chair at a small brown desk in between the romance and fantasy sections.

Romance and fantasy. My two great loves.

Coincidence? I think not.

Anyway…

The desk was next to a floor-to-ceiling window, which gave me perfect light and a wonderful view, so I sat with my computer and began to type.

Twenty minutes later, I was stuck.

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I’d written my superhero characters into a corner and couldn’t find a way out. *insert heavy sigh* So I did what I always do when I’m faced with writer’s block; I opened a new Word document and started to write something ridiculous.

My plan was to type a few paragraphs about a guy and girl in high school who really like each other, but bicker all the time, and I was going to make it hilarious. But a few passages in, my sweet and silly free-write exercise took a sharp turn and headed face-first into the land of heavy heartache and healing hope.

Before I knew it, I was bawling my eyes out at that little brown desk.

I was sobbing in public and didn’t care. Because the story falling out of me was real and powerful and rawand it was completely undoing me. So I let myself unravel all over the bookstore floor.

Employees stared at me helplessly. Book readers and other B&N patrons passed by with furrowed brows and looks of concern, but I kept kept typing. My eyes glued to the computer screen. My heart bleeding all over the keyboard.

I stayed that way, tearful and bloody, until the store closed.

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By the time the B&N employees politely kicked me out, I’d finished my story. And wow. What was supposed to be just a few paragraphs, had turned into a novella.

An accidental novella.

After wiping my face dry, I saved my document (which at the time had no title), and packed up my things. Then I left that little brown desk and headed home.

Life went on and I forgot all about that day at B&N. I forgot all about my novella, too—until I randomly came across it two years later. “Oh yeah…” I said to myself. “I should probably give it a title.”

I thought about naming it I Love Your Guts since that’s a repeated phrase throughout the story, but it didn’t feel right. I couldn’t think of anything else to title it, though, so I simply named it after the two main characters: Sophie and Carter.

So I had a story. With an ending. And a title. But what now?

WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN YOU FINISH WRITING A STORY?

I didn’t know. I’d never thought about my stories as anything other than private places for my imagination to play, but now… What if…

What if…?

WHAT. IF.

What if I dared myself to do something fearless? What if I dared my heart to want something—HOPE for something—completely crazy?

With a deep and shaky breath, I did just that and sent Sophie & Carter to a local publisher.

It was the most terrifying thing I’ve ever done.

It was also the most life-changing.

Because, soon after, Sophie & Carter became my first very published book.

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Dreams tumbled into my lap after that. I got an incredible literary agent. I signed amazing book deals. I published seven books in three years. Basically, my life became a real-life fairy tale.

Which brings me to last Friday, January 16th, 2015.

Six years after my sob-fest writing session at Barnes & Noble.

You see, last Friday was my very first book signing at a Barnes & Noble bookstore. After years of writing and publishing, one of my books, Best Kind Of Broken, was finally on a B&N bookshelf!

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SO SURREAL! I couldn’t even stand it. That was my book! Right there on the shelf! Where people could see it and everything! I couldn’t believe it!

But there it was. And to make things even more dream-like, my publisher asked me which Barnes & Noble I’d like to do a signing at and I, of course, requested “my” B&N—the one with two floors and windows everywhere—and they made it happen.

I was thrilled! I was actually going to be signing books, as a legit author and everything, at MY  Barnes & Noble.

I knew the signing would take place on the second floor so, when I arrived, I rode the escalator upstairs and, lo and behold, there was a table set up with copies of Best Kind Of Broken.

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And where was that table? Right smack dab in the middle of the “study lounge.” You know, in between the romance and fantasy sections.

Right where I belong.

The table wasn’t quite big enough for me to sign at, so my friends pulled over an additional table and helped me set up shop. Then the signing began.

AND IT WAS AMAZING!

Dozens of readers, friends, and family members came to support me, which blew my mind! I couldn’t have imagined a better group of people to spend my evening with. I signed books, and chatted, and laughed, and took pictures and it was ALL. SO. INCREDIBLE!

And to top it all off, I finally got to meet my agent, Suzie Townsend, in person for the first time! And she’s every bit as fantastic as I imagined. LOVE her!

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Yes, my shirt WAS that bright.

Chels and Suzie

Suzie Townsend. Best agent and coolest person ever.

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And of course I wore some killer high heels.

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They had neon pink soles!

 

Like I said, it was AMAZING.

And then that familiar announcement came over the loud speakers, informing everyone that B&N was about to close for the night so…yeah. Get your stuff and go home. Haha.

I was sad that the night was over but I was completely high on life and dreams come true.

As I started to leave, I glanced behind me to thank the B&N employees for all their help and hard work. They were taking the book table down and, in doing so, had moved the other table—the one my friends had added to give me more room—back to where it belonged.

My heart caught in my throat.

It wasn’t just a table.

It was the little brown desk.

My little brown desk. The one against the floor-to-ceiling windows, with perfect light and a beautiful view. The desk where I had, six earlier prior, poured my soul into an accidental story I never thought anyone would read.

I stared, stunned, at the little piece of my dream come true—a dream I hadn’t even known was mine when I’d sat there all those years ago. I almost started bawling all over again.

That little brown desk had supported my tears and furious fingers back then, and had supported my joyous smiles and leaping heart that night at the signing.

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See the desk covered with a white tablecloth? That’s my little brown desk!

It’s crazy how life set us up for places we don’t know we’re destined for. And crazier still, that destiny sometimes brings us back to where we started.

CRAZY AND PERFECT.

So yeah.

This is the story of a girl…who had a hobby…and a little brown desk…and a daring heart…

….and a dream that started coming true long before it even existed.

The story of me.

Thank you, my sweet readers and friends, for giving this wonderful story of little brown desks and big beautiful dreams to me. As I wrote all those years ago in Sophie & Carter, long before any of this was real… I love your guts.