Looking back on where I was ten years ago, I can’t quite believe how far I’ve come.

There I was, sitting in an underground pub in Germany and hearing the words Red-Light District. When my now-husband explained what it was, my jaw dropped and my insides hurt. How could such a place be legal?

Then again, I grew up with the stereotypical mindset about prostitution. The one where you don’t talk about those kinds of women. They’re in that situation because they want to be after all.

When I got back to the States, I couldn’t get rid of the itch. The seed was planted. Time to pack some dirt on it. Watering would come later. I started on a cliche journey and looked up the film, Taken. (For those who have and haven’t seen it, Taken is extremely rare and unrealistic portrayal of trafficking. Much like Pretty Women, hey! Taken happens in .1% of the time if not lower. Pretty Woman= 0%) Just reading the summary and learning about Liam Neeson’s daughter put on display sparked an idea to write a speculative fiction on what prostitution would look like in the future if legalized in the United States. However, it would take years of research and enlightenment before The Aviary became truly accurate.

My first big step was when I saw the anti-trafficking documentary, Nefarious: Merchant of Souls. It was a hard-hitting and informative introduction into the world of trafficking and made me hungry for more. I started searching for any anti-trafficking events in my area where I could volunteer or attend as well as spending months and months of research, which didn’t end as time went on so the months turned into years.

One event I am so glad I did not miss out on was a Women At Risk, International seminar. This was after I’d become a brand new mom to a little girl. Now, Rebecca McDonald does not mince words, she does not sugar coat. Suffice to say, I loved that. She wasn’t afraid to inform people about how gruesome and gristly the trafficking industry is and how it preys on young girls and how integral the pornography industry is to trafficking. It was Rebecca who helped to ignite the fire in my heart for this issue and not just as an activist but as a parent as well. It was after that seminar and hearing from Rebecca as well as another trafficking survivor that my book truly began to evolve. I began top receive support from those in the movement from rescue agencies to politicians, but The Aviary still had a long way to go!

It was around around May or June of 2015 that I participated in #PitchtoPublication and submitted The Aviary (Serenity at the time) to the contest. About a dozen or so editors were participating and would each choose a grand prize winner who would receive professional editorial services for their book. But first, you had to make it through all three rounds and get chosen out of thousands worldwide! Naturally, I was ecstatic when I made the top ten cut, but I wasn’t getting my hopes too high. However, the list continued to shrink until I was one of two chosen by Kate Angelella, a former Simon and Schuster editor! I will tell you this: editors are worth their weight in gold. Without Kate, there is no way The Aviary would be what it is today.

After a month of hard editing and a title change, my book went to the agent round and received the most agent interest and offers out of all the others! Even though I was most drawn to Carlisle of CK Webber, I went with ZSH Literary out of New York as they were the biggest. However, it was only about six months in that my agent left the industry and ZSH dropped me as a client. I was very disappointed but unwilling to give up. A still, small voice told me to return to CK Webber to see if she was still interested, and she was! I love the heck out of my agent, Carlie! I love how dedicated she is to her clients, how passionate she is about my work, and how she and I both love Disney and can connect over our favorite princess, Rapunzel!

Last year was spent full of hope but also heartache as the dozens of publishers the Aviary was submitted to ultimately turned my work down despite offering much flattery and praise for my writing and for bringing awareness to human trafficking. This did not deter me! In fact, it poured even more fuel on the fire in my heart – perhaps not for The Aviary but for a new book! Though it would be my first attempt at writing a contemporary, I knew I wanted to write an anti-trafficking one. How to do this?!

I knew I could not write it from a survivor’s standpoint. The trauma survivor has endured is far beyond my imagination. But I wanted to bring the truth about this in a way that teenagers could read without it being overly graphic. To begin, I contacted a survivor and spent over two hours interviewing her about her journey from sex-trafficking to survivorhood. My next step was to interview the director of a horse therapy ranch because I wanted to bring the aspect of rehabilitation and restoration into my book. The next few weeks also involved pouring over a host of rape survivor and trafficking survivor poetry, which was harrowing but also rewarding. And over the next three months, Dear Autumn was born! It has passed through two revisions thus far, and I’m certain there will be more in the future. But I move forward into 2018 with this renewed hope and a goal to get this book into the school system to educate teenagers about what prostitution really looks like and how it can be in any environment from the home to strip clubs.

Tagline: One girl’s search for the truth of what happened to her deceased best friend leads her to a mysterious diary, a missing time capsule, a horse therapy ranch, and a past shadowed by abuse and trauma.

It has been a long road in this movement. I am speaking on the 20th at the Farmington Library and look forward to encouraging others to take up their anti-trafficking torches. I would love to speak more in the future at other venues whether they be schools, churches, or more libraries. I consider myself an author, an awareness bringer, and a prevention worker. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and I hope to spread this especially to parents and teenagers.

Thank you for reading my story and sharing in this glance of my journey. I look forward to the next eleven years spent in this movement.

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