Editor’s Note: This article has been altered from its original publication to correct an error. We apologize to anyone who received incorrect information.
For many college writers, the thought of publishing a book may seem a lofty goal. For junior Chelsea Spanier, it’s about to become a reality.
“It means that I’m on my way, that I’m getting a start, but I am by no means there,” Spanier said.
The novel, “Hearts of Glass,” will be out by early June. It tells the story of a female musician who wants to join an all-male drum corps and auditions by disguising herself as a man. While she believes her disguise has been successful, the director of the band realizes she is a woman and allows her to remain because the corps needs a female member in order to be funded by a mysterious benefactor.
For Spanier, who has been heavily involved in music for many years, writing about music was a natural choice.
“My musical background was the primary influence behind my writing for many years,” she said. “There’s so few books about music, and the books that are out there are about, like, string quartets with people in their fifties that are going through crises that I can’t relate to.”
Spanier believes that there is a definite link between writing and music because they are both deeply personal forms of expression, even when people may not seem very expressive outside of their art forms.
“It doesn’t mean you have to go around with tears running down your face and hugging everyone you know,” she said. “It’s what we do as people.”
Spanier began writing “Hearts of Glass” the summer after her sophomore year of high school after seeing a Drum Corps International performance. Interested in finding out more about the last two all-male drum corps, The Cavaliers and The Madison Scouts, she attempted to contact their directors. However, she was unable to get an interview with any directors, members, or other participants in the programs. This refusal made her even more interested in what might happen if a woman were to try to join one of these drum corps.
“I wouldn’t say being turned down was the main inspiration, but it definitely fueled my interest,” she said.
For feedback from readers, Spanier began posting chapters from her stories on online writing forums. She found that her stories seemed to generate positive responses, and she soon had 3000-4000 regular readers. A few fans even began to suggest publication.
“When this book idea garnered enough interest from people I knew online and all that jazz, a few people said, ‘You know, you should publish it,’” she said.
Unlike many, Courtney Brandt, a fellow writer who has exchanged work with Spanier for years and who is published by the same company that Spanier is using, is not surprised that Spanier is seeking publication while in college.
“Personally, in my opinion, age has nothing to do with writing (or any artistic) ability,” she said.
The process of finding a publisher was particularly difficult for Spanier. Because she couldn’t afford an agent to pitch her book to publishers, she had to seek publishers unsolicited. As a result, several publishing houses turned her away without looking at her book. Finally, a company in Iowa agreed to sign her book, but went bankrupt shortly after.
Spanier is now publishing through a company called iUniverse, a self-publishing company that allows authors to keep the rights to their own books, pull their manuscript at any time without repercussions, and market their work themselves.
In spite of all these benefits, self-publishing carries a stigma in the publishing world.
Brandt said that while self-publishing is a good first step for many writers, it isn’t always the best step.
“There is a difference between being self-published and going through a traditional publisher,” she said. “I would actually encourage most young writers to try and hold off and make their manuscript the best possible and then trying to query an agent.”
However, Spanier believes that self-publishing is a good option for young writers who are trying to publish for the first time.
“There’s a lot of benefits in self-publishing,” Spanier said, “but because it’s not considered [to have] prestige in the writing field, I’m embarrassed and I shouldn’t be.”
The fact that fewer constraints are put on the authors also means that virtually anybody can publish anything through a self-publishing company. As a result, this type of publishing is often disdainfully referred to as “Vanity Publishing.” Because of this reputation, Spainer was hesitant to go to a self-publishing company at first.
“I almost didn’t. I didn’t want to,” she said. “Because of my ties with this other company, they managed to get me a really good deal.”
Ultimately, however, Spanier said she appreciates the freedoms that self-publishing offers because her publisher understands that writing is a creative expression and doesn’t seek to control its writers.
“I found myself liking it much better than the terms of rights I had with the other publisher,” Spanier said.
Now that the end of this project is in sight, Spanier plans to take a break and focus on school, which took a back seat while she rushed to finish the book in time for her publication deadline. She had other projects already in the works, however, and plans to continue writing and growing as a writer for years to come.
“As a college student, now isn’t the time to try to represent who you are and who you always will be,” she said. “Your work is always going to change.”
I am a senior English writing major and political science minor at Concordia College, but I originally hail from Fort Collins, Colorado. I have a deep passion for humanitarian aid and the power of the written word. I am currently the Editor-in-Chief of the 2011-2012 Concordian, though on occasion I also write and take pictures.
Dream job: hybrid freelance journalist/human rights lawyer.