My story by Sharon M. Peterson

Romcom author Sharon M. Peterson shares how a gifted laptop provided escape and opportunity at a time when she needed it most and led to a dream deal with Bookouture.

As a child, books were my saving grace. I read voraciously and constantly. I spent my day with a book tucked under my arm or in my backpack just waiting for the moment when I could crack it open. I took books to the bathroom with me. (No judging. Cellphones weren’t a thing back then.) I read by nightlight long after I’d been tucked into bed. Books and me—we were friends. So it isn’t too surprising that I secretly dreamed of writing books one day.

But life has a way of detouring dreams like that.

I got married. I taught middle school. I had four kids, two with special needs. I quit teaching to stay home and became a professional at a variety of things including: arguing with insurance companies, shuttling children to daily therapy, microwaving chicken nuggets, and living on caffeine and prayer. Life taught me I had to be ruthlessly practical. Which meant: no time, no money, no sleep, no writing.

But around 2015, friends, probably tired of my rambling Facebook posts, encouraged me to start a blog. So I cautiously signed myself up for a free one and promised myself I’d give it a shot. I blogged for a year and I learned two things. One, I hated blogging, and two, I loved telling stories.

Writing became an outlet for me, a sort of free therapy. I was happier when I wrote consistently. So in 2016 when my laptop broke and we couldn’t afford to replace it, to say I missed writing was an understatement. It was like a limb had been cut off and then reattached with duct tape and instructions to continue with regular activity. Which is what I did. The stiffest of upper lips, sucked it up, and all that. Secretly, I longed to write.  

A few months later, a friend asked me for coffee. When I got there, she presented me with… a new laptop. A group of moms (most I didn’t even know) had been following the blog. They’d pitched in and bought it for me so I could keep writing. It was the most remarkable gift I have ever received. I decided then and there and I was going to write a book.

So during naptimes, at 1 a.m, in between cleaning up spilled milk and wrestling naked children off the trampoline, I wrote. That laptop lived on my kitchen counter, perched on an economy box of baby wipes. I often wrote in five- or ten-minute increments, standing at my kitchen counter.

In 2017, I finished that book.

I had no money for extras. I didn’t attend conferences. I couldn’t pay for an outside editor. I used the resources I found around me–the writing community on Twitter. I found a local writing group. I met strangers who became critique partners who are now lifelong friends. I started querying and got requests. None of them panned out. Then, in June 2017, my only sister/sibling and best friend passed away unexpectedly, and I plummeted into a severe depression. But I didn’t give up on that stupid book. Some days, it was one of the few things that kept me going.

Over 16 months, I queried 107 agents. I was rejected a lot until I thought about changing my name to Reject. Two days before my 40th birthday, I signed with my agent. My book went out on submission.

In the meantime, I secretly entered the Romance Writers of America’s Golden Heart contest. I told no one, not even my agent. I was sitting in a parking lot of a pet store when I got the news that I was a finalist. I cried, as one does when receiving such news in a pet shop parking lot, then politely turned down the invitation to attend the conference iu New York City which mind as well cost a million dollars. But the people in my life wouldn’t let that slide. They encouraged me to crowd source for the funds. It took a little over a week for friends, family, and members of the writing community to fully fund my plane ticket, hotel, and conference fee. I went to NYC for that conference.

While I didn’t win, it was the second most remarkable gift I’ve received.

Alas, that book did not sell. So I wrote a second book. It was pretty good, better than my first. Because in the years leading up to it, I learned a lot about writing for publication. The book went out on submission in 2019. And the response was positive. I got a revise & resubmit from an editor, so, you guessed it, we pulled it and I did more revisions. It went back on submission in February 2020—days before the world exploded.

Then my personal life exploded, too. In August 2020, my husband was laid off his job of 10 years. Two months later, he contracted COVID and ended up hospitalized. In January 2021, my oldest son began having grand mal seizures. In February 2021, the Freeze came through Texas and our two story house was completely destroyed by frozen pipes. Our family of six moved into a 700 square foot hotel room for over four months. My husband still hadn’t found a new job. I could barely read a book, let alone write one. Things were bleak.

And no, this is not the part of the story where my book magically sold at auction for seven figures and a movie deal.

We finally got back into our house and in October 2021, my husband accepted a job 2000 miles away. So we sold our house, uprooted the kids from the only place they’ve ever lived and moved right after Christmas. My book was still in submission-limbo and I was beginning to think maybe I wasn’t meant to be a writer.

But in January of 2022, my agent submitted to Bookouture, an imprint of Hachette UK and… they liked it. Like it so much, I was signing a two-book deal in February. Six months later, The Do-Over was published. It wasn’t on any lists and it’s never had a best seller ribbon but it sold consistently and steadily and quietly won over readers’ hearts. It’s been translated into German and has two other translation deals in the works.

I published my second book, The Fake Out. in July of 2023 and my third, The Fast Lane, releases today! I also recently found that The Do-Over will be getting a print run. In September 2024, The Do-Over will be in bookstores across the U.S.

I have to pinch myself all the time that this is really happening. I am a published author. Has my world suddenly become rainbows and kittens? No, it has not. We still have a lot of challenges and they aren’t going anywhere. So I celebrate every single win, big or small.

But mostly, I know what I’m capable of now. There’s power in that, the knowledge that with persistence, stubbornness, and a little hope, even the biggest, scariest, most impossible dreams can come true.

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