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Nicole Baart is a critically-acclaimed novelist whose work has been featured as a Midwest Connections book pick, nominated for a Christy Award, and earned a starred and featured review from Publishers Weekly. In 2011 she co-authored a book that debuted at #4 on the New York Times bestseller list. Here, Baart shares her path to publication tale—a true Cinderella story.

By Nicole Baart

 I’ve wanted to be an author for as long as I can remember. My childhood was marked with medical trauma, and I spent my early years cycling in and out of the hospital and doctor’s offices.

In the 80s, I didn’t have access to a separate children’s hospital or a child life specialist, and surgery days were isolating and scary. The only thing that made the experience bearable was the bag of library books that my parents would select the night before. As I waited for the nurses to wheel me to the operating room, I would sit in my father’s lap, cocooned by a blanket as he read book after book.

By the time I reached kindergarten I could read and write. But more importantly, I understood the significance of story. And I desperately wanted to be the kind of person who got to tell some of those beautiful stories.

 Fast-forward 20 years. I’m a college graduate, an English teacher (because as you know, those who can’t, teach—a saying that makes me bristle to this day) and a new mom. My dream of being an author is temporarily sidelined by a very busy and even happier life. I still write when I can (poems, mostly, but also short stories, essays, and social media posts that are really vignettes on life and motherhood). When my husband makes an unexpected friend, and that friend just so happens to be the mentor of the acquisitions director at a renowned publishing house, I’m granted the opportunity to get my writing into the hands of a real live editor. “Send me 50 pages!” the friend says. “And when I see her at Christmas I’ll slip it in her purse.”

There are two major problems with this scenario: first, I don’t have 50 pages of anything cohesive or purposeful; and second, I’m too inexperienced to know that using a friend to unload an unsolicited manuscript on an unsuspecting editor at a Christmas party is painfully gauche. All I see is an opportunity.

For the next month, while my baby sleeps, I write. It’s a furious, fugue-like state fueled by coffee, passion, and the belief that this may very well be my one and only chance. In four weeks I have 50 pages of something… and I print it off, secure it with twine (as one does), and send it overnight to the dear friend who promises to deliver it with exhortations to read it. Exhausted and utterly spent, I promptly wash my hands of this bewildering endeavor and assume I will never hear from the mysterious editor.

Three months later, my phone rings. It’s the editor, and she has discovered my pages in her slush pile. She politely admits to being bemused by the Christmas party submission, and shares that my pages quickly found a home in a forgotten corner of her office. Until that morning. “I’d like to read the rest of the book,” she says.

A third major problem: there is no book. Just the 50 pages in her hands. Graciously, she tells me that if I ever finish the novel, she’d be interested in reading it. And then we hang up—and I get to work.

At the end of three more months, I have a 90,000 word manuscript that I print off, tie with twine (obviously), and mail off with a wing and prayer. A couple days later I receive an email: Could you please send me a digital file?

Despite my many embarrassing blunders, that submission turned into a two-book contract and launched my career. My debut made a small splash and the follow-up was nominated for a prestigious award. But when it came time to talk about another contract, my editor kindly said, “I think it’s time for you to get an agent.” I couldn’t have agreed more.

Nowadays, my agent charitably keeps me from making a fool of myself—most of the time. And though she tells me that my path to publication is a Cinderella story and perhaps I should keep it to myself, I love sharing my bumbling, awkward, serendipitous tale. It may seem like a I got to skip the line, but I think it was a pretty rocky road—in a different way.

And if I could, I would whisper to that scared little girl in a hospital bed: “Hang on, honey. Someday all those dreams will come true.”






Nicole Baart is a bestselling author, collaborator, ghostwriter, and speaker. Her latest novel, THE LONG WAY BACK, releases June 13, 2023. It’s available for pre-order now.