I’ve been writing ever since I was a little girl growing up in Birmingham, Alabama. My debut work was a highly (okay, totally) plagiarized version of The Pokey Little Puppy. The narrative followed the original closely (okay, word for word), and it came complete with detailed Crayola illustrations and was bound with staples by my ever-patient mother. When I wasn’t copying other authors’ books, I was walking, sitting, or lying down with my nose in a library book. In fact, the old Birmingham Public Library, with its marble floors, giant murals, and soaring atrium, remains one of the most magical and inspiring places in the world to me.

After graduating from Auburn University with a BA in Communications and two minors in Journalism and Theater, I moved to New York City with my husband. I landed a job at CBS television in the Daytime Drama division, where we oversaw the production of the soaps “As the World Turns” and “Guiding Light.” One of my responsibilities was reading the shows’ daily scripts and creating summary paragraphs for local newspapers. You might remember reading one of these tiny masterpieces – they usually went something like, Roger freaks out when he realizes Holly’s been faking amnesia, and Billy’s back from rehab only to find Mindy in bed with Frank! (“So-and-so freaks out” was my signature, work-horse phrase. I used it every week.)

After moving back to Atlanta, I attempted to write a few spec soap scripts, but the form didn’t quite capture my imagination. Instead, I began trying my hand at screenplays. I shopped a few to Hollywood agents and production companies, was lucky enough to place in a couple of contests, and was even shortlisted for the Sundance Screenwriters Lab. As I like to say about that phase of my writing career, my screenplays were rejected by the best; Amblin Entertainment (Steven Spielberg’s company), Icon Productions (Mel Gibson’s company) and Rob Reiner’s company all said no. I did, however, have the fantastic opportunity to work on two low-budget, indie films, but, at the conclusion of those exhausting experiences, I realized film production wasn’t for me. What I really loved most was writing.

With my three boys in school full-time, I decided the time was right to take the leap and write a book. I joined the Atlanta Writers Club and a local critique group. I devoured several excellent craft books. I had never taken a formal creative writing class and felt woefully unqualified, but I couldn’t avoid the pull of the page. The prospect of creating an entire world all my own electrified me.

I began working on my first manuscript, a romantic comedy, in 2011. I finished it, queried agents, and received some encouraging comments. Ultimately, no agent bit, and after a second, unsuccessful attempt at the rom-com genre, I decided to try something new. I wanted to go dark – write something really creepy, atmospheric and southern gothic. The resulting book, Burying the Honeysuckle Girls, ultimately landed me my agent (the brilliant and hard-working Amy Cloughley at Kimberley Cameron & Associates) and sold to Danielle Marshall and Kelli Martin at Lake Union Publishing (Amazon).

It’s been a long journey to publication, and I’m still trudging down the path. Trudging, yes, but whistling a happy tune on my way. What I’ve learned so far? Have (unending) patience, be (relentlessly) diligent, and stay (stupidly) optimistic. This career can buffet your self-esteem, and to keep moving forward, you must maintain this strange, paradoxical combination of hubris and humility. People help – my fellow critique partners have been a lifeline for me and my family has bolstered me with love and support. Find your network; they will encourage you to keep telling your stories. For me, that’s where the joy is found.

Emily Carpenter, Author