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After 11 years, this mother’s dream of publishing a book comes true

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Amy Makechnie couldn’t wait until nap time.

She’d put her youngest daughter, Paige, down in the afternoons and sneak away to the computer. Then, for as long as her daughter slept, she’d write and write some more.

It was 2007 and the New Hampshire mother of four was just beginning an arduous 11-year journey that concluded with a literal storybook ending.

Simon and Schuster released ‘The Unforgettable Guinevere St. Clair’ in bookstores across the country Tuesday. And there, on the cover in the lower right hand corner, is the author’s name: Amy Makechnie.

It’s a youth novel about Guinevere, a 10-year-old who is determined to find her missing neighbor. But the answers lead to places and people she never expected.

Before I go any further, I’ll get this out in the open: Amy is my cousin. Every summer growing up, she and her family drove from Nebraska to visit our home in Utah, where water fights, hikes, late night movies and other adventures would commence.

Her story of becoming an author is similar to many writers living in eastern Idaho. You write late into the night after your kids have gone to bed and arise early to jot down the idea that came to you while sleeping. The purpose of this story is to inspire you – wherever you and whatever you’re doing – to not give up on your dreams.

Amy was the first in our extended family to attend Ricks College (now BYU-Idaho) before transferring to BYU. That’s where she met her husband, Gregor, and after graduation, they moved to New Hampshire where he accepted a job at Proctor Academy, a private boarding school in Andover.

When Amy started to blog about motherhood, running, faith and other issues. She’s always been a good writer, but she really caught the bug about a decade ago.

“During the first three months of Paige’s life, I would write furiously whenever she napped,” Amy recently told me. “I wrote during any spare moment and eventually had a glorified autobiography.”

Amy Makechnie spent thousands of hours at this desk working on her book. | Courtesy Amy Makechnie

Amy wondered if that “glorified autobiography” would be interesting enough to get published. In 2008, she began seeking out literary agents. And it wasn’t pretty.

“I wasn’t getting any bites on the book. Nothing. It was a very humbling and brutal process,” Amy recalls. “It occurred to me that maybe I should write another book because this one might not sell. If anything, it could keep my writing skills fresh and help me learn more about structure and craft.”

So that’s what Amy did. She started another book and wrote and re-wrote. For years, family members and friends gave input and in January 2013, she began querying literary agents yet again.

“I contacted one of my friend’s agents and said my book might be a good match for what she represents,” Amy says. “I was surprised when she actually wrote me back. She advised rewriting the entire story from a different point of view and send it back to her.”

Amy made the revisions and contacted the agent again. The agent liked it, but not enough to acquire it. Months later, Amy queried her again with yet another novel. The agent responded and said words Amy will never forget: “I think you’ve got something here.”

But the agent didn’t have room for any more clients, so she referred Amy to a colleague, who asked for the full manuscript. They went back and forth with book revisions and changes. Then Amy held her breath.

“A few days later I was sitting in my study and her email popped up in my inbox. I shut my eyes and said, ‘It’s going to be a no. Please let me be able to handle this,’” Amy says.

After taking a deep breath, Amy opened the email.

“I love it. Can I call you?” the message read.

“I was just beside myself. It was such a thrilling moment,” Amy says.

Now that Amy had secured a book agent, she needed to secure a publisher. Amy and her agent, Zoe Sandler of ICM Partners, pitched the story to 15 publishers and all of them said no. It was a lot of rejection and often hard for the new author to accept.

“Then in December of 2016, a junior agent at Simon and Schuster said, ‘Hmm. This could work but you’ll need to make some changes to make the story stronger,’” Amy recalls.

The changes were made and the waiting game began yet again as the editor pitched the book to her acquisitions team. Until Feb. 24, 2017 – two days after Amy’s birthday.

“I got a call from Zoey and she said, ‘Amy, they want it.’ It was one of the best days of my life.”

For the next year, Amy and Zoe worked with the publisher to hammer out the final version of the book. Many changes were made – including cutting a major character, plot twists and even a different book title (Amy had titled it ‘A Boat Against the Current’).

Finally, in January 2018, the book was finished and now, five months later, years of tedious hard work are paying off as the book sits on bookstore shelves (and websites) across the country.

So far, editorial reviews have been positive with Publisher’s Weekly saying ‘The Unforgettable Guinevere St. Clair’ is “spirited and layered…a big-hearted adventure about coming home.”

Barnes and Noble featured Makechnie’s book in their e-newsletter Tuesday. | Barnes and Noble

Amy realizes there are thousands of authors around the world hoping to get their work published. She says her story is the best-case scenario and realizes how lucky she is.

“I got a literary agent who believed in me and then I got a big publisher that loved the story,” Amy says. “It’s like a one in a million chance and I’m so fortunate that it happened.”

Amy has already begun working on her second book and plans to continue to write. She says it’s thrilling, rewarding and hopes other authors never give up.

“I’ve learned a lot during this process. Mainly that no one is going to get you there. You have to believe it and do it. It’s really, really hard,” Amy says. “But I remember thinking all along that this might not go anywhere but I still have to do it.”

And do it she did.