Here’s How I Got My First Book Deal At The Age Of 23

Thought Catalog

Growing up, I knew I always wanted to be a writer. I had dreams of reporting the latest news, creating stories out of scraps, and capturing the best, and worst, of the world and putting it into words. However, despite my interest in writing, I was encouraged not to pursue a career in such a field. Instead, I was told to pursue teaching or nursing, careers which would guarantee me a position right out of college, careers which had child-friendly hours, and decent pay. So I put my writing to the side and became a teacher.

But after my first year of teaching, I was left wholly unsatisfied. I wanted to write. I wanted to do more with my brain than just teach comprehension and multiplication to a handful of elementary schoolers. Don’t get me wrong, I love those kiddos to pieces. But the creative part of my brain was largely dormant, and it was craving something more than just the latest third grade craft or party idea. I wanted to be challenged.

So I moved up to Wake Forest, NC (for reasons pertaining to my husband’s schooling), and I found another teaching job. Once again, I found myself wanting to do something exciting and creative with my time, especially during those late afternoons and throughout the weekend.  I often thought of my dream of becoming a writer. I told my husband that if I could spend my days writing, I would be one happy girl.

Then one day, I stumbled upon the Wake Weekly Newspaper, my towns local newspaper. The newspaper was located in downtown historic Wake Forest. My husband and I had been exploring the town, and I figured why not pop inside and say hello to the editor.

So I did.

I marched up the stone stairs and swung open the door. I introduced myself to the front desk lady and asked to speak to the editor. Unfortunately, he was unable. So I took a newspaper from the stack on her desk, took a calling card, and began to march out. As I began to descend down the stone steps, I suddenly heard, “Wait!” Low and behold, the editor stood at the doorway. We introduced ourselves, and I asked if he was looking for a part time writer. He told me to send him my resume, and I directed him to my blog.

I then went home and created a writing resume, which largely consisted of me bragging about grants I had won throughout my teaching career.

I emailed him my petty resume, and a little while later he called me into his office to chat. I would lie and say our conversation went great, but to be honest, I had no idea how to answer most of his questions. But despite my muddled words, he began assigning me stories. Stories that took me all over the Triangle area. I went to festivals, to food truck rallies, to stores, to spas, to town board meetings, to concerts, and so much more. I learned how to photograph things, and I got to use a super fancy camera. I learned how to create an online layout. I learned how to interview people, what information to gather, and how to craft an excellent story. I was having a blast! All the while showing up to work every day ready to teach my third graders.

Soon, I began to see my stories pop up on the front page of the paper. I began to see my stories framed and displayed around town, such as in the mall and at the auto dealership- completely random places. I became buddies with the mayor. I became friends with the police chief and local firefighters. Companies were happy, and the town was happy with my work.

So I decided to take it up a notch, and began writing for Elite Daily. I wrote about everything from college life, to travel tips, to fitness regimens. And the next thing I knew, my articles started going viral. Not all of them, but some of them. Thousands upon thousands of people were sharing my articles world wide. Big name companies started contacting me and sending me their products, hoping I would “name drop” them into my articles.

Then, other magazines started contacting me. By this point, I was so swamped with The Weekly and Elite Daily, that I didn’t have time to write for other places in addition to teaching full time. Editors were reaching out to me left and write, bloggers were reaching out to me asking me to write guest posts, companies were pestering me to review their products, and it all became quite overwhelming.

I began to ask myself, how can I capitalize on this writing career? I started noticing journalism jobs open up in NYC, jobs at Elite Daily, Bustle, and Huffington Post were within arms reach, but I knew better than to jump into a new career since my husband and I were moving to East Asia later in the year. That’s when I realized, instead of writing article after article, why don’t I just write a book?

So I did.

I wrote a book about what it’s like to be in your twenties. I wrote about finding a career, embracing minimalism, taking control of finances, fitness, travel, and relationships—everything I would normally have written online. I pitched the idea to Thought Catalog, who had reached out to me earlier to publish an article of mine, and they accepted my book idea.

So now my book is coming out later this summer, and I couldn’t be more excited.

And to think, it all started with walking up those stairs and introducing myself to the editor of The Weekly. It started with picking up my quill (err…laptop) and forcing myself to write, no matter how tired I was at the end of my teaching day. I figured out what I was and wasn’t good at, what readers did and didn’t like, and through a trial and error process, I managed to hone in my writing skills and land my first book deal. No English degree needed.

So here I am, a 23-year-old with two years of teaching under my belt, a stack of published articles piling up in my closet, and a book coming out shortly. I say all of this not to brag, but to inspire others to also pursue their dreams. Pursuing your creative dreams isn’t easy, and success isn’t guaranteed, but if your creative side is screaming to be let loose, don’t ignore it. Let it out. You never know where it might lead you.

Make sure to pick up my book, The Smart Girl’s Guide to Surviving Her Twenties, upon its release later this summer. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

Courtney is a style and travel writer seeking to do whatever it takes to make the world a little brighter. Visit her at

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