When I saw that Anne Bustard’s novel, Anywhere But Paradise, was scheduled to be published, I was thrilled! Probably not as thrilled as Anne, but still, I was pretty darn excited for her.
I met Anne–gosh, I guess it was nearly three years ago–when I’d just finished a first draft of a YA novel. We attended the Highlights Whole Novel Workshop together and I well remembered Anywhere But Paradise. Which is saying a lot because I’ve read hundreds of books since then, not to mention all the books that have come before. But Anne’s story, set in Hawaii, was so unique, her voice so wonderful. And her journey’s been so…well, you know what? I think I’ll let Anne tell you herself:
My middle grade debut, Anywhere but Paradise (Egmont Publishing), began in a writing class over fifteen years ago. The instructor asked us to create a one-page index of compelling chapter titles. As someone prone to drowning in details, it was an effective and efficient way to consider the whole story.
I had no idea what I was doing, but I didn’t let that stop me.
I decided to write a historical novel about a seventh-grade newcomer to Hawaii. That is still the essence of the story, but everything, and I mean everything about it has changed.
Along the way, I worked on other writing projects, joined a critique group, attended dozens of conferences and workshops, and studied craft at the Vermont College of Fine Arts.
A few times, life happened and I stopped writing. But I held fast to the belief that time can be reclaimed. That because the time I devoted to others was exactly what I needed to do (with zero regrets).
Over time I grew as a person, which in turn, helped me grow as a writer. I returned to the page with new insights and experiences.
Peggy Sue’s story, informed in part by my childhood, kept calling me back. Though up to five years may have passed between revisions, each time I listened and tried again.
Three years ago, I thought about quitting. I’d received a daunting critique of the novel. I decided writing was too hard. That I didn’t have what it took. That I’d never have a novel published.
But I was buoyed by concrete suggestions and insights. If I chose to try again. I knew what I needed to do. I knew that it wouldn’t be easy. The question was: would I commit?
Over a year and multiple revisions later, I connected to my dream agent and, in turn, my dream editor.
With the amazing Andrea Cascardi, I revised even more. I responded to her first editorial letter in February and March of 2014. Most of Anywhere but Paradise takes place in April and May in 1960. I knew I was in deep when I got mixed up about what month it was in my real life.
By October of last year, we were in final edit mode. That’s when the news came—Egmont USA was for sale. The spring titles would be published, but their future became a question mark.
As a former children’s bookseller, I had seen the sales of many houses. I was hoping for a happy ending. We continued fine tuning the manuscript.
In January of this year, shortly after Andrea and I took one last look at the Note from the Author, Egmont USA announced it was closing. Stunned and oh-so sad for the fantastic staff and books that wouldn’t be published, I never imagined this scenario. Yet, by some miracle, my book and the other spring titles would still be published.
The incredible debut YA author Sarah McGuire gathered authors on the spring 2015 authors together as Egmont’s Last List, (#LastListEgmont.) Dozens of caring people have reached out to us collectively and individually (thank you, Cathy!) to draw attention to our work.
In February, Lerner Publishing Group purchased the Egmont USA books. We are thrilled!
Anywhere but Paradise has had a long journey. I’m grateful for every step.
Now doesn’t that inspire you, wherever you are on your journey? It sure inspires me. And the book is that good, too. Anywhere But Paradise is available now at Amazon or check out Indiebound so you can find it locally.
Ah, happy endings. And happy debut, Anne!