From Dream to Publication

Staff Writer Maria Christine C. Castro

Photographs by Maria Christine C. Castro

Description of photo

What started as a desire to finish the National Novel Writing Month challenge in November turned into an idea that Jazmin Santiago did not think could come true so soon. Armed with only a vivid dream she had one night, a laptop, and her determination, the 23-year-old UH Hilo student created a fantasy novel that was published this past February.

In high school on Maui, Santiago wrote articles for her school newspaper and this past experience made her feel ready for the challenge of bringing the fantasy world that she had in her dream onto paper. She first joined the National Poetry Month in April of 2017, writing a poem for every day of the month. Practicing daily gave her the confidence boost she needed to take on the more daunting task for NaNoWriMo to write a novel in just one month.

The NaNoWriMo competition is held online every November. Writers are challenged to complete a story with the goal of 50,000 words in 30 days. Santiago participated the past three years but did not get the chance to finish any of her stories. It was not until November 2017 that she decided it was time for her to reach the 50,000-word completion mark.

To help keep herself organized and avoid writer’s block, Santiago outlined her entire story and gave herself the goal of writing for at least two hours every day. Sometimes the flow and rhythm motivated her to write more. She started off strong, reaching her targeted word count each day, until she got sick in the middle of the month and was not able to write for a couple of days. She began to worry that once again, this year would not be the year she would complete the NaNoWriMo challenge.

Her motivation decreased with each passing day that she could not write, but the moment her health returned she buckled herself down and made up for lost time by furiously writing for the remaining days of November. By the last few days of the month, Santiago was in the final chapter of her book with 40,000 words written. With only the epilogue left, she knew that she would be able to finish the challenge for the first time.

Finishing the challenge gave Santiago the satisfaction of completing her story, but her grandmother, Ellie-Mae Waters, did not want her to stop there. Waters encouraged her to share her story with the world by having it published. “She has always been super influential to me. She supported me when I started taking creative writing classes back on Maui,” Santiago said.

Taking her grandmother’s encouragement to heart, Santiago participated in the NaNoWriMo opportunity to publish her novel. Participants are given the option to submit their novel to Kindle Scout with the chance that it will be selected for a publishing contract or manuscript feedback. The competitive nature of the incentive worried Santiago, but she sent her request for the chance to be published anyways.

To get a book published through the NaNoWriMo’s partnership with Kindle, authors must receive enough votes from Kindle Scout to get their story published. Santiago did not receive enough votes but was encouraged by her grandmother to look for a different method to publish her book.

It was her father who then suggested contacting Amazon and getting herself self-published. Amazon allows writers to have their books published as e-books or paperback copies. Feeling more confident with this approach, Santiago began the process of publishing her book.

Because Amazon’s self-publishing services will publish your book regardless of spelling or grammatical errors, Santiago reached out to her mother and brother to help edit her story before the given deadline. However, her family did not have the time to go through her story entirely, leaving Santiago with just notes, so she decided to seek the aid of close friends to finish editing.

Santiago then embarked on the long process of formatting her novel. She had to tweak the positioning of her chapters, font sizes, and the style of the book cover until she finally got her book the way she wanted it. The finished edition was scheduled to be available for purchase for both paperback and Kindle on Feb. 14.

Santiago’s partner, Dylan Hedrick, was happy to see her dream finally unfold. He had read her novel and said: “It is a wonderful story and I was honored to be a part of it. I am incredibly proud of how much recognition it is receiving because I know how hard she worked on it every day.”

Beaming with pride at her accomplishment, Santiago announced to her family and friends that her book, “The Secret of the Forest,” was out and available for purchase. Set in a fantasy world reflected from Santiago’s dream, her novel follows the forbidden love story of a giant and a fae, or a young fairy, as they bend the rules of their tribes to be together.

Santiago got her family hard copies of the book and their reactions toward it were no less than proud. “I love the way Jazmin expresses herself and can see other people’s point of view,” said Waters. “I hope she continues to write and dream up new stories.”

Santiago’s mother, Jeanine Alexander, was not short of motherly pride for her either. “I am so proud of how accomplished Jazmin is. She has always been very willful, determined, and self-motivated. Jazmin has grown a lot through her writing. I am amazed that she did this considering she is a full-time student with a double major.”

Santiago’s experience displays just how far dedication can take a person, even when faced with challenges. Her experience with writing and publishing her first book motivated her to pursue a career in writing. Previously a Pre-Nursing major, she is starting her first semester as an English major and Communications minor in hopes to learn new ways to enhance her stories for future books.