Never Be: Overcoming the Naysayers & Fulfilling Your Dreams
I had been told “no” my whole life. I had been told that my dreams were too big, unrealistic, and far-fetched. My dreams, they said, could “never be.” However, I knew better. I knew I was much better than that.
From an early age, I dreamed what it would be like to stand alongside well-known names in literature like Mark Twain, Shakespeare, Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, and Dr. Seuss. As soon as I learned to read and write, I started to shape words into poetry and short stories.
By the time of my sophomore year in high school, I had competed in the Alabama Council of Technology Education Technology Fair for several years. This year, however, would be different. While browsing on the internet I came across images of animals that had been created using the simplest shapes in Microsoft Office Word. When I found I could do that, I struck gold, hitting a major turning point in my life. Over the next several weeks, I began to play around with shapes, creating animals with Microsoft Office Word. First came a small brown mouse, next an orange tabby cat, then a chocolate-spotted dog, and finally, a big gray elephant.
As the 2014 ACTE Technology Fair began to creep closer, I found myself playing around with words, stringing together sentences, and seamlessly placing the sentences into flowing poetry. By February 2014 my first book was complete, and I was amazed at what I had created. Just a few months before I was playing with simple shapes, and now I am like a locomotive, going full-steam ahead straight towards success.
On February 19, 2014, I presented my first book to the ACTE Fair’s Regional Fair judges. Entering my hand-bound, hand-laminated book as a “General Applications” project, I stunned the judges as I displayed the tedious and oh-so-intricate illustrations. It worked! I won first place at Regionals! I was now headed to the state competition. This was only the beginning and the results of my efforts were about to domino.
As the months passed between the Regional Fair in February and the State Fair in April, I continued to edit my work. However, I had one important addition…the dedication of the book to Miley. Miley is my best friend Deeanna’s 3-year-old cousin. She suffers from Leukemia, a form of cancer. I knew Miley and her family need all the help they could get.
During the months that followed, many people saw my “manuscript” and inquired how they could purchase it. Others had encouraged me to publish the book, and hopefully, other books to follow. It was then that I realized my book’s potential as a way to help pay Miley’s medical expenses. During the weeks that followed, I wrote more stories to add to what I now called the “Terra” collection.
Of course, the naysayers tagged along. Between my grandparents and my mother, I collected enough “Debbie Downers” to fill my jar. I knew I had to prove people wrong, and that I did. In April, I won second place in the state ACTE Fair and my book began to take flight. I entered another contest, with my eye on the prize of free publishing, but the contest fell apart, leaving me disappointed, but still seeking a publisher.
As I was walking (I had no car) to our local mall, I passed a small print shop, one I had passed by many times before. This time I stopped. I inquired about the possibility of getting my book printed. Within two weeks, I had my first book in print, and I started down the road to self-publishing. I considered my initial investment and possible return and decided to donate 10% of my gross sales to Miley.
Still without a car, I began walking weekly routes to sell my book. Walking 10 miles a day in the scorching Alabama summer heat, I often grew weary and considered quitting. I kept going. By mid-June, I had come in contact with a woman (and kindred spirit) who advised me to invest in a copyright. In the following weeks, I scrounged up the money and on July 26, 2014, I applied for my first copyright.
In the months that followed, my book began to literally fly off the local bookshelves. By the start of the next school year, I had sold over 150 copies of my book and raised hundreds of dollars for Miley.
The school year led to a slow season. Selling my book was no competition for constant homework and a struggle with illness I faced. Several months passed with no income for me and no funds for Miley. It would not be until April of 2015 that I would have the time, strength, and financial stability to reinvest myself into my company.
I began to put my book, now titled “Terra’s Four Special Friends” back into print, now bolstered by an e-reader so I could accept any form of payment. I created a Facebook page and began to illustrate my second book. By the end of April, 2015, I had put myself back into the mainstream. I began promoting myself by attending local markets and special events in order to sell my book and raise money for Miley.
During May, 2015, my second book “Terra Meets Sunny” was completed. Once again, I applied for my copyright, put the new book into print, and promoted it.
June 2015 marked the one-year anniversary of my company. In just one year, my life had changed so very much. I went from an “unrealistic dreamer” to the CEO of my own company. The naysayers began to praise my valiant efforts and accomplishments. I had sold 500 copies of my books in over 12 states in the US and to other countries such as South Africa, Germany, and Iraq. With growing support and over $6000 in gross sales and donations to Miley, I knew that I had become better than they said I would “never be.”
Beth Braden is a student at Oxford High School and a member of the Class of 2016