By: Karen Eddington, Beta Literary Club Vice President
For the March 2014 meeting, the Beta Literary Club invited local young adult author Jennifer A. Nielsen to talk about her writing and the different books she has published. Nielsen’s “The Ascendance Trilogy” final book “The Shadow Throne” had been released the week before. Nielsen’s agent had called her before the meeting to let her know that “The Ascendance Trilogy” was number seven on the top 10 of the New York Times Best Series list. Also the new book has reached 114 on the 150 USA Best Seller List. Nielsen was having a great day.
Nielsen told the group how her reading and writing skills came about. As a kindergartener, she could read words and sentences in short story books, which at the time was not something that a Kindergartener was taught to do. Nielsen learned to read from her older brother before she started kindergarten. Her teacher at the time made her relearn the letters and sounds that went to that letter, but Nielsen still read books without letting her teacher know. During her third grade year, her teacher at that time challenged the students to read pages by moving each student’s name on a train around the room. Nielsen wanted to be the top page reader, so she read a lot of pages to stay on top.
During Nielsen’s sixth grade year, her teacher had the class read the book “The Outsiders.” After reading this book Nielsen had an idea of writing a story that could be published one day. While writing the book, she realized she was going to have to research some of the details she was not familiar with. During a research call to a local business, the businessman thought she was trying to get information about breaking into a place for criminal intent. There was no internet Google search or caller ID at that time, which she was glad because she thought the businessman would have turned her into the police. This research phone call scared her so badly that she put her story away and to this day has not finished writing the rest of that story.
In eighth grade Nielsen was given an assignment to write a story for a class. Her teacher thought it was good enough to be entered into a Deseret News story writing contest. Nielsen received an honorable mention on her story, which renewed her story writing talent again. Nielsen went on to be a debate coach for Bountiful High School in Davis County for several years, until her first child was born. She had always wanted to be a stay-at-home mom for her kids, so that was what she did. But she had a lot of time on her hands. During nap times she would work on a story that was “floating around in her head.”
Nielsen told the group of ladies that night her goal was to get an agent and be signed by a top publishing company in New York. After hundreds of rejection notices from agents, she found one that would take her on as an author if she read a book and changed some of her ideas for the book she had written. Nielsen told the group she read less than 20 pages of the book and told this agent that she could not write that style of writing. At this same timeshe was in an online writing group that helps authors with ideas or suggestion to make the story better. Nielsen said that she wrote the group about a possible agent to help publish her book series “Elliot and the Goblin.” A group member privately emailed and told her if the other agent did not work out, that she would be happy to be her agent and sign her as an author with Scholastic Press. That was how she found her agent and made her dream come true of writing for a New York publishing company.
Nielsen told the group other wonderful stories that she has experienced while being an author and traveling in the United States. When asked what an author has to have to get something published, she said an author needs to have a “hook” for the story to keep the reader interested and be able to take the criticism that goes with being an author. She wanted people to know that her readers range from 8 years old to 81 years old no matter the book series.
The Beta Literary Club members where grateful for the time Nielsen spent with them and answering the questions they had. Several members are looking forward to her new series with the first book coming out next year with a Rome, Italy setting.