Almost every published author will tell you that they got fistfuls of rejection letters before their first book deal; many other would be authors have never received anything but. First time author Maya Frost explains how stepping off the treadmill of convention not only led her and her family into an amazing new debt-free, international lifestyle (despite putting four children through college in almost as many years) but also led to the publication of her first book (a book, I should add, that I've read cover to cover and back again, and already recommended to at least a dozen friends!) - Davina, BookBrowse editor.
I've spent the last decade teaching people how to pay attention, and it never ceases to amaze me how difficult it is to trust our own intuition about what matters most. Whether we're worried about our child's education or our next career move, we tend to stick with conventional wisdom rather than listen to our hearts.
During the last four years, I've had two remarkable opportunities to see what can happen when I walk away from "normal" and trust my instincts.
In 2005, my husband and I decided to sell everything and leave our suburban American lifestyle behind in order to live abroad. The tricky part: we had four teenage daughters to usher through high school and into college. Most people thought we were sabotaging our girls' education by yanking them out of perfectly good schools at such a critical stage of their lives. We had our doubts, of course, but we also had a hunch that this would be an amazing experience for our family and allow us to save thousands of dollars for college costs.
It turned out to be the smartest decision we have ever made. We stumbled upon some stunningly advantageous options that any U.S. student anywhere can leverage to leapfrog over their test-dazed classmates. Within months, our daughters had joined the new breed of global American students: those who are releasing the old "four-by-four" model (four years of high school, plus four years of college), laughing at the lunacy of the college-prep mindset, and gliding into the global economy at 19 or 20 with a red-hot U.S. or Canadian college diploma, fluency in at least one foreign language, outrageously relevant experience, and no debt.
What do these students have in common? Though their paths vary dramatically, these Bold Schoolers are trusting their own ideas about what is most important in their education. They are flexible, curious, self-directed and absolutely on fire about what they are learning.
But let's face it: it doesn't take much to talk a kid into skipping the SAT, shortening the time until graduation, or studying abroad. My challenge was to help parents come to terms with the idea of stepping off the traditional track so that their kids could reap the benefits. Parents are fearful--we tend to stick to what we know even if it's not working. Those who trust their instincts about what's best for their kids are free to help them design a personalized and exhilarating education that allows them to soar.
I knew it was important to get this message out to parents, but once again, I had to listen to my heart and ignore the obstacles:
- I had zero contacts in publishing
- I lived a hemisphere away from any English writers' conferences or other schmooze-fests for aspiring authors
- I had no platform as an expert in education
I followed the old adage, "write what you know" and looked at the questions people ask me most often:
- "What possessed you to move abroad with four teenage daughters?"
- "How did your girls manage to graduate from college at 19?"
- "By what miracle did you pay for four simultaneous college educations with a mid-five-figure annual income and no loans?"
- "How did your daughters get such interesting jobs around the world in such a terrible economy?"
- and my personal favorite: "How on earth did you get past the naysayers who made you feel like a bad parent for doing things differently?
I emailed a three-paragraph query to ten agents I'd researched online. The agency websites posted disclaimers along the lines of "We receive a thousand queries a week, so don't expect to hear from us," but what did I have to lose?
Within 24 hours, I received responses from five of the ten I'd contacted--all asking for a full proposal! Fueled by adrenaline, I got a little bolder. I decided to listen to that impish little voice--and write directly to the publisher of a similar book to see if she might like to publish mine.
This is a big no-no in publishing, but it shifted things into high gear immediately. Three weeks later, I had an agent, an editor and an advance from Random House. I wrote the entire book, The New Global Student: Skip the SAT, Save Thousands on Tuition, and Get a Truly International Education, from my living room sofa in Buenos Aires, and didn't meet my agent or editor in New York until my book was on the shelves 17 months later.
What's next? I'm playing with writing a novel. The last fiction I wrote was a fourth grade creative writing assignment about my cat. The odds are stacked against me--it's a tough market to crack, and even though I have been published in nonfiction, my agent assures me that I'm basically starting out as an unknown author in a new genre.
But I'm paying attention to that same little voice calling out to me, the one I've learned to trust during these last four years. I'm going to follow my heart and forge ahead, diving into unknown territory yet again.
I can't wait.
You can find more information about Maya, her family and her book at mayafrost.com.