Ever since I met Julie Klassen as a fourteen-year-old, holding out my copy of The Apothecary’s Daughter for her to sign, I have admired her elegant professionalism and, of course, her wonderful way with words. Over the past five years, I have frequented her book signings (promptly devouring each new novel), chatted with her at a church Christmas dinner, and attended her lecture at a Minnesota Christian Writers Guild meeting. As an English major at Concordia University, St. Paul, I continue to pursue a dream I have held from childhood—to become an author like Julie someday.
In May, when my mom suggested I contact Julie and offer to intern for her this summer, I was hesitant. Wouldn’t that be intrusive? I would love it, but… I couldn’t dare. Could I?
Finally, my mom smiled and said, “I think you want it too much.” Why do moms always have to be right? 🙂 I wanted it so badly, I was afraid to ask. I gathered my courage and sent Julie a Facebook message saying I would be happy to write, edit, research, and do other related duties for her this summer, in exchange for the valuable experience. Soon, to my delight, I received a reply from Julie thanking me for my offer and asking if we could meet and talk it over. We met at a coffee shop and worked out the details of a writing internship, one she insisted would be paid.
That coffee shop became a familiar place this summer as Julie and I met there about once a week to discuss different projects. Julie ordered dark roast coffee and me Italian soda. We visited over our laptop screens and a jumble of notes and books. My assignments included screening and recommending books for possible endorsements, researching historical topics for Julie’s next novel, corresponding with readers on email and Goodreads, and writing articles. I also helped brainstorm ideas for Julie’s future books, from the proposals and outlines to individual characters and scenes. She even gave me the opportunity to read and provide feedback for galley proofs of The Secret of Pembrooke Park (coming this November!)
As I prepare to study abroad at the University of Ireland, Galway this fall, and continue to write toward my own dreams, I recall the words of C.S. Lewis: “Only a real risk tests the reality of a belief.” Writing costs time, energy, and heart-baring honesty at the risk of rejection. It is a high price. But working with Julie reminds me of writing’s reward. There is a light in her eyes when she molds a character’s personality, sketches out a plot, or discovers a nugget of historical detail. There is great encouragement from readers and fellow authors. There is joy to be found in courageously pursuing God-given gifts.
Julie suggested to me that perhaps, inspired by my semester abroad, I could write a contemporary romance that takes place in Ireland…with any luck, it will be based on a true story! 🙂