Joelle Charbonneau, author of "The Testing" trilogy, visited Cary-Grove on February 10 to talk about the long road to becoming an author and the tenacity it required. She has published ten books since the beginning of her career but easily recalls the rejection she faced to publish her first.
Mrs. Charbonneau started her career as a performer, where she said she experienced a lot of rejection. She was inspired to write her first book after she was not called back for a production. When she finished the book, she gave it to family members to read but knew it wouldn't be published.
"It was long and boring and bad, but it was my bad book," Mrs. Charbonneau said. "And then I thought, 'Now can I give them something better to read?'"
She started another book and eventually joined the writing group Romantic Writers of America (RWA).
"You would bring a part of your book to read aloud to the group," she said, "and then you got to sit silently for an hour while everyone told you what you did wrong."
Despite the criticism, she said the group taught her valuable writing skills, including mechanics and what to leave out. Mrs. Charbonneau finally tried to get her book published after an RWA member put her in contact with a well-known agent. The agent sent back a rejection letter that the author has kept to this day.
"He told me my book had 'no value in fiction whatsoever' and that it was quite possibly the worst book he'd ever read," she said. "He suggested that I burn it and consider giving up writing forever."
But Mrs. Charbonneau kept sending out the book to be published. "That was only one person's opinion," she said.
Her perseverance paid off, and soon she wrote her most popular book series, "The Testing," which follow the story of an equally determined character, Cia. The character must pass life-or-death trials to become a world leader.
"I wrote this book to teach readers that no one can tell you what you're capable of," she said. "The only thing that defines you is what you're willing to do."