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Why I Choose Publishing: Elizabeth Stranahan

It is not unusual for teen girls to hold obsessions. Boy bands, Disney channel stars, the occasional young wizard in training, they all work their ways into our hearts at a moment when such adoration feels new and exciting and—often melodramatically—all consuming. My seventeen-year-old self was no exception. However, the recipient of my fixation happened to be a thirty-one-year-old author and the novel he wrote. An avid reader my entire life, it’s fair to say there were a number of books I liked along the way and a select few I loved. However, Looking for Alaska by John Green became the first book to stop me in my tracks. Understanding plot twists and racing to the end of chapters were no longer enough, for the first time in my reading history, I wanted to know about the author himself. I needed to know how something that struck me so deeply came into creation.

A stroke of chance and a lot of luck led me to discover Green’s strong presence on social media. Videos, blogs, articles, and interviews streamed the Internet making him and his works accessible to his readers in a way unprecedented in my previous experience. Through careful stalking observance of these materials, I soon discovered that many of my favorite moments in the novel the author attributed to numerous conversations he had with his editor. In fact, he went on to attribute the book’s success, and his success as a writer as a whole, not to his own genius as a single author, but to the creative processes of a collection of individuals. Green reached out to his editor whose attention to detail transformed characters trapped in a page into vulnerable human beings, and to his cover designer who gave the novel a face and identity. He called attention to his publicist who packaged the work ensuring it would find a readership, and to the numerous other players who took a role in picking his personal project and adopting it as their own.

We hold tightly to the notion of the author writing furiously in a corner or tucked away in a basement. How quickly we forget that novels come not from individuals, but from communities, communities of engaged minds that bring words to life and to light. This is not to say these throngs of compassionate creators sit veiled behind the walls of publishing houses either. Readers critically thinking, discussing, sharing, and living in words—fictional and non-fiction—continue to prove what we literary lovers know to be true: stories matter.

So I choose publishing because I want to have a hand in bringing font to fruition. I choose publishing to pay homage to words that enraptured my seventeen-year-old heart. And I choose publishing to join the community of storytellers.