Senior Emily Palmer writes to tell the stories she sees play out in everyday life.
Palmer, a journalism and global studies double major, is one of the many student authors at UNC who have already published books or are working toward publishing their works.
Palmer self-published “The Gingerbread Philosophy,” a coming-of-age novel, during her sophomore year after working on it for three years.
“When you’re writing a novel, it’s a committed relationship — you’re living and breathing it,” she said.
“By the time I finished the novel, I almost felt displaced because I had been so ingrained in that world and in that character’s mind, that to then no longer be working on it was really a challenge.”
The summer before Palmer started college, she created a strict schedule, writing every morning from 9 a.m. to noon.
“Writing any work of fiction is incredibly difficult,” she said.
“Without those days, if I had given in every day that I didn’t feel the inspiration to write, I never would have written anything. Once I developed that routine, everything else fell more into place.”
Palmer published her book through Lulu.com, a self-publishing website. “The Gingerbread Philosophy” is available as a free eBook and as a paperback copy for about $12, of which she earns about $3 per book. Palmer said she has made $255 from selling 85 copies of her novel so far.
Alaina Bainbridge, a freshman creative writing minor, wrote her novel, “As it is in Heaven,” in high school as part of a creative writing class and had it published through her teacher’s publishing house.
Bainbridge said she started her book the summer before her senior year of high school thinking that it would be a short story, but after writing the first 50 pages, she realized she had a novel on her hands.
“The book is sort of in the same vein as ‘The Hunger Games,’ and it’s a little bit futuristic,” she said. “It’s basically three different stories within one novel. Each story takes place in a different time period.”
Bainbridge said she was inspired to continue writing her novel after falling in love with her characters.
“I think a lot of people have this idea that you see leaves turn or you see the sun set and you get inspired to write something beautiful,” she said.
“That wasn’t my case at all. Really, I just started something, and it sort of grabbed my interest for whatever reason.”
Bainbridge said the year-and-a-half-long process of writing, editing and publishing her 300-page book was a learning experience, and she now knows what she’s doing, which has helped with the recent completion of her second novel.
“I think I just love the act of writing, and I’ve never been called to anything else the way that I’m called to writing,” she said. “I feel like this is the gift that I was handed.”
“As it is in Heaven” is available as a paperback book, but Bainbridge also plans to sell a digital version of her book online at retailers like Amazon.com and eReader.com.
Kathy Pories, senior editor at the Chapel Hill publishing house Algonquin Books, said student authors have to follow the same process that any other writer would in order to publish a book.
“They would have to make it into the best shape possible and take it through a number of drafts so that what they sent out was really polished,” Pories said.
“It’s not like getting a job, where people are looking at your experience — but they are going to look at the pages to see if this is writing that just blows them away. That’s even more impressive if you’re young and you manage to write something that’s really perfection.”
Heather Wilson, a sophomore English major, is working on a memoir to preserve details from her adolescence and childhood. She said a memoir-writing class inspired her to think about how her experiences could come together.
“I know it’s kind of unusual to want to publish a memoir at a young age, but I just had a really, really strange childhood,” she said.
“I lived in six different states from the ages of zero to 20, so there’s just a lot of different variety there and a very interesting family dynamic. It seems that it will lend itself well to a memoir.”
Wilson said publication might be the goal of her memoir, but she just wants to get her memories written down so her children can read about her young life.
Palmer also said she doesn’t write to be published — she writes to fulfill something internal.
“The way that I interact with the world is through stories,” she said. “Having the chance to self-publish and share my novel with others — my friends, my family, the University — was really fabulous.”
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