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'This has been my childhood dream': UNC student set to publish debut novel


Photo by Chris Ocana, courtesy of Victoria Wlosok.

When UNC sophomore Victoria Wlosok was just fourteen years old, she began participating in a tradition that changed her life.

National Novel Writing Month, known in the literary world as NaNoWriMo, occurs every November and sees participants attempt to write 50,000 words of a novel in one month. Successful young-adult authors such as John Green and Rainbow Rowell have participated in the past.

Wlosok’s NaNoWriMo in 2020 proved to be a successful one, as that fateful first draft ultimately landed her a two-book deal with a respected publishing company during her first year of college.

“This has been my childhood dream since I was literally like five years old,” Wlosok said. “So the fact that I've managed to achieve it while I was a freshman in college, without even taking any English classes for my major yet — that was pretty cool.”

Wlosok’s novel, a YA thriller titled "How To Find A Missing Girl," is set to release in fall 2023. The novel will be published by Little, Brown under the Hachette Book Group. 

“It’s a sapphic YA thriller about a 17-year-old amateur sleuth who decides to investigate the disappearance of her ex-girlfriend a year after her own sister went missing,” Wlosok said. “And her ex-girlfriend happens to be the creator of a notorious podcast — a notorious local true crime podcast — about the disappearance of the main character’s sister.”

Wlosok cites Holly Jackson’s "A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder" series and Karen M. McManus’ novel "One of Us is Lying" as sources of inspiration, as well as the TV series "How To Get Away with Murder" and the video game "Life is Strange".

"How To Find A Missing Girl" features coming-of-age themes of trauma, grief and isolation, as well as LGBTQ+ joy.

Wlosok’s literary agent, UNC alumna Jessica Errera, focuses on acquiring diverse voices for her pieces of literature. 

“Victoria mentioned in her query letter that the whole cast was largely LGBTQ, which was something that was super intriguing to me,” Errera said.

After reading the first three chapters, Errera was already impressed.

“I read them, and they were just so voicey and good,” she said. “And it didn't sound like an adult trying to sound like a teen — the voice was just incredibly authentic and riveting. I got to the end and I was like, 'Well, damn, I have to read the entire book in a day now, because I need to get on this fast.' And that's exactly what happened.”

Wlosok signed with Errera in September 2021, submitted her work to editors at publishing companies in January 2022 and landed a publishing deal two months later with Little, Brown — all while being a full-time UNC student.

Wlosok finds that balancing academics with her writing is "definitely something that can be really hard," and tries to work on balance. 

Wlosok’s work ethic impressed her high school teachers and college professors alike.

“I’m glad she’s not inclined towards world domination, because we’d all be doomed,” joked Clint Alexander, Wlosok’s high school English teacher and creative writing club leader. 

Alexander introduced Wlosok to NaNoWriMo in her first year of high school and recalled Wlosok’s drive, humility and dedication to NaNoWriMo fondly.

“She would just blow [NaNoWriMo] out of the water,” he said. “That was just her cracking her knuckles. And we would try to do it with the whole club and we would kind of gradually watch everybody else kind of slacking off or not finishing. But every year, I don't think there was one year that she didn't finish.”

Wlosok’s UNC poetry professor echoed Alexander’s praise.

“I think Victoria is a one-of-a-kind young writer and I think she is at the start of a long and wonderful career,” Ross White, the director of creative writing in UNC's Department of English and Comparative Literature, said.

As Wlosok eagerly waits for her book to hit shelves nationwide, she'll continue to juggle her dual life as an author and busy student.

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“It is hard to be a student and an author at the same time,” Wlosok said. “But I think I’ve been handling it pretty well so far. And I’m just excited to keep doing it.”