Believe in the Impossible: How Rejection Led to Eva Evergreen and the Cursed Witch


I was in college—going through the routine course load of a Business Administration major—when I first got a glimpse of a different future. Out of all places, I was browsing through the online course catalog to figure out what classes could fulfill my requirements. My classmates were all enrolled in Business Writing 101—there were plenty of spots open still. There, I would learn how to write a business essay, which I’m sure would be helpful with writing the thousands of emails and executive summaries to come in my future.

 

I scrolled a little further and there it was. Advanced Creative Writing: Application is required; only 15 candidates allowed. I love reading with all my heart, and I’d dabbled in writing here and there. In middle school, my absolute favorite assignment was to write my own “chapter” for the Martian Chronicles, thanks to my brilliant teacher, Ms. Johnson, and that had sparked an early interest in writing. But I never thought writing might be a class I could take.

 

This is impossible.

 

I submitted a little story I’d drafted a while back, but geared myself up for figuring out how to write formal business essays. I’d almost forgotten all about the class until I received an email, notifying me that I’d—along with 14 others who were mostly MFA hopefuls—had gotten in.

 

Believe in the impossible.

 

Maybe my writing wasn’t a lost cause after all. The workshops fascinated me; I’d never been in a proper workshop before. The professor and other students would read one of the students’ short stories, and we’d discuss the plot and the mechanics and all sorts of brilliant, writerly things, and I was in over my head because all I’d been studying these past few years was economics and accounting and marketing.

 

Though I wasn’t really sure about how this short story format worked, I tried and labored over a story. I searched for the right words and tried to squeeze out a proper plot. As I printed it out, I smiled at the inky words that I’d created all my own.

 

Fast forward to the workshop. I was looking forward to learning more about how to write. Perhaps someone might compliment one of my descriptions or—

 

The professor tossed the paper onto the table and declared, “I couldn’t read this.”

 

I was so frozen with shock that I couldn’t speak. I couldn’t defend myself as she continued on about how awful my story was; she simply didn’t like it. My heart broke as she said that I couldn’t write. That she refused to read a word.

 

But—but—as I stumbled out of the classroom, tears burning at my eyes, one of my fellow classmates stopped me.

 

“Hey, Julie,” he said. “I’m sorry about that. But for what it’s worth, I liked your story.”

 

I tucked those words in my heart. I hadn’t gotten the professor’s approval, but my words had mattered to someone.

 

Believe in the impossible.

 

Still, the sharpness of her words carved away my belief in myself, and my heart ached and ached.

I folded up my dreams, tucked them in a little box inside my heart, and threw out the key. I was all business now. Clearly, I didn’t have any talent or skill to be writing fanciful stories. When I tried picking up my pen again, I immediately put it back down. I went back to writing my emails, working on my PowerPoints, polishing those executive summaries.

 

This is impossible.

 

I graduated. I got a 9-5 job where I wrote plenty of emails and reports, attended lots of meetings, and on my lunch breaks, I’d scarf down my microwaved leftovers, stare out the window, and wonder, is there more to my life than this?

 

I wasn’t good enough. I wasn’t talented enough. I knew that—I had been told that, loud and clear.

 

Yet—impossibly—yet…

 

One day, after yet another seemingly endless meeting, I went home and found a dusty old notebook and stared at the blank lines stretching across the paper.

 

This is impossible.

 

I still could hear the slap of my printed pages, my story, hitting against the table. That professor would never support anything I created. But I also remembered the encouragement of Ms. Johnson in middle school, so many years before, the bright “A” on the top of my short story. I remembered the other student, who’d taken the time to encourage me, and he’d even invited me to his critique group, to meet his other writer friends. I would believe in myself, even if my professor never would. Slowly, I began to write.

 

That start led to Eva Evergreen, Semi-Magical Witch. It’s a story with a warmth as reassuring as getting a good hug, or the feeling of drinking a mug of hot chocolate on a cold day. It’s a book that my dream editor offered on, a book that went on to receive dazzling starred reviews and be listed in “Best of” lists. A book that I’ve received letters from readers that have made me tear up, because my words truly matter to them, and helped me remember the books of my childhood that I loved so dearly.

 

Yet, when I was writing the sequel, Eva Evergreen and the Cursed Witch, I hit dead end after dead end. My plots were tangled and surely that professor was right.

 

This is impossible.

 

But, word by word, page by page, I found the story, one line at a time. And I reminded myself, as I reminded Eva throughout her newest adventure: Believe in the impossible.