Writing a book can be a real challenge and getting it published an even harder task, as Cristin Bishara, a 1990 graduate of Poland Seminary High School, knows well.
"Growing up in Poland, I remember especially loving my English classes in middle school and junior high," she said. "I was always a voracious reader. I got my first Poland Library card when I was three years old. By eighth grade, I realized I was good at writing, too. But being good at something and deciding to do it professionally are two different things. It wasn't until my senior year in college that I got serious about creative writing as a career goal."
After graduating from Poland, Bishara attended Kenyon College where she earned a major in English, and St. Mary's College of California, where she earned a masters in fine arts. After graduating, she worked in marketing and advertising, writing copy for corporate brochures, websites, newsletters, and magazines. She also taught composition and fiction writing at the university level.
Five years ago, Bishara had an idea for a novel involving the story of 15-year-old Ruby Wright, a science-minded teen who discovers a portal to alternate universes and becomes obsessed with finding the perfect world following a series of emotional upheavals in her life.
After two years of writing, her first draft was finished and she began a search for a literary agent. It took her 15 months of queries before she was offered a contract with Minju Chang at BookStop Literary.
"Before submitting to publishers, Minju asked me to rewrite the ending and consider a few other revisions," Bishara said. "This took about four months. Minju sold the book three months later. We had two offers and chose Walker Books (an imprint of Bloomsbury). The contract was negotiated and signed, we changed the title, I added a chapter and revised some more, the cover art was created, and the manuscript went through the proofreading and printing process. All of this added another 23 months before 'Relativity' finally landed in bookstores on Sept. 10."
Looking back at five years of work and struggling to get to print, Bishara recalls one thing from Poland High School that she said helped inspire part of her science fiction novel.
"Actually, if I had to pick a favorite subject from my years at PSHS, it would be calculus," she said. "I had a fabulous teacher, Mr. Smith, who made it interesting and clear. Math and science play a significant part in 'Relativity.' My main character has one of Einstein's field equations tattooed on the back of her neck."
She said the calculus class came in handy when it came to keeping the parallel universes straight in her book. She said it took charts, diagrams and spreadsheets to keep the storyline on track.
Since the release of "Relativity," the feedback has been outstanding. It is gaining in popularity and has even received some buzz from TV producers.
"I've had a few conversations with a TV writer/executive producer who's interested in pitching it as a TV series," Bishara said, "I'm excited! But I'm also realistic about the chances of this actually happening. It's an extremely competitive world when it comes to film and TV."
While TV or film may or may not happen, Bishara is not wasting time. She has already begun work on her second book.
"The second book is also young adult, and has elements of science and romance, and it's fast-paced as well," she said. "The science inspires me because it adds another layer to the story, and provides thought-provoking plot points."
In looking back over the past five years, Bishara said she's surprised.
"I never, ever imagined having a book in stores in Canada, Australia, and the U.K., in addition to the United States," she said. "'Relativity' has also been made into an audio book produced by audible.com. Hearing a professional narrator read my words is truly amazing."
She said her success can be rooted in her early life in Poland. She had some advice for students presently in Poland schools who are thinking about a writing career.
"Practice makes perfect," Bishara said. "Start by writing for your school newspaper, attend workshops and author signing events, take a notebook with you everywhere, read all the time. I'm very visual, and I like using photographs and artwork as points of inspiration. If you want to succeed, you need to find your own muse."