Springfield, Ill. ~ Kelsey Schulz admitted she was sad to see Benedictine University at Springfield transition to an adult education-only campus, but during her time there she found the inspiration to complete a project that she began working on as a freshman in high school.
Schulz, a Godfrey, Ill., native and transfer from Lewis and Clark Community College who graduated in May with a Bachelor of Arts in Writing and Publishing, recently placed her book, "Witchhunter: The Realm of the Isles," on Amazon. It can be downloaded through the Kindle Store or purchased as a paperback through Amazon's CreateSpace.
Although the idea of writing a novel had formed years earlier, it was the time she spent at Benedictine that was instrumental in her growth from dreamer to doer.
"Quiddity (the international literary magazine produced on the Springfield campus) was my second home for the better part of my first semester at Benedictine," Schulz said. "There I was able to grow not only as a writer, but as a person as well. During my time in the Quiddity office, not only was I tasked in formatting and putting together parts of the magazine, I was also assigned a personal project, which could really be anything I wanted.
"That got me thinking back to my freshman year in high school when an idea began to form in my mind; a small flicker of light in what would turn into a bigger flame than I ever could have imagined," she added. "After a year or two of this certain project being on the back burner, I decided that my personal project would be to finally finish my first novel."
The self-proclaimed Harry Potter-obsessed reading enthusiast wasted little time completing her first draft. However, turning that manuscript into a reader-ready novel was an exercise in patience and persistence.
"The editing and tweaking took much longer than I would have liked, but I couldn't help myself," she said. "I try to be a perfectionist."
That's when Schulz ran into the proverbial brick wall behind Platform 9 ¾.
"After I finished my very first version of my book, I was eager to get it out into the world," she said. "But I was turned down by more than 30 agents and publishers. It left a defeat in me that I never thought was possible. I didn't want to continue. I didn't want to try to get it out there any longer and for a while, I stepped away from my book and didn't think about it for months on end."
But after returning to Benedictine for her third and senior year, she found a renewed sense of determination.
"I became more motivated by the rejections than defeated," Schulz said. "That's when the editing and re-editing and re-writing began, which ended up lasting the better part of a year or so. While it still isn't perfect and there are typos here and there, no book is ever perfect. Every time I find a typo in a published book from a favorite author, it makes me feel a bit better."
Schulz's labor of love, "Witchhunter: The Realm of the Isles," follows 19-year-old Arya Genori, who discovers that things aren't quite what they seem in her hometown of Mayville. Lonely, guilt-ridden, and shut down after tragedy strikes her family, she discovers a secret buried in her past that places her and her friends in the middle of a decade-long war.
"After almost 10 years of developing the idea and putting the idea into words, it was out in the public's eye for anyone around the world to see, which is something I sometimes still can't wrap my head around," Schulz said. "While I am not a famous or even a well-known author, just seeing my work online and especially holding a physical copy in my hands was something that my life revolved around, something that was a dream of mine since I was a little girl."
And what's next for the admitted "stay-in-on-a-Friday-night-with-a-book" kind of girl?
"Now it's time to find a new dream, which is to become a well-known author ... or at least known well enough to where I can write for a living," she said.
Benedictine University is located in Lisle, Illinois, just 25 miles west of Chicago, and has branch campuses in Springfield, Illinois, and Mesa, Arizona. Founded as a Catholic university in 1887, Benedictine enrolls nearly 10,000 students in 56 undergraduate and 19 graduate programs. Forbes magazine named Benedictine among "America's Top Colleges" for the sixth consecutive year in 2016. A 2016 PayScale Inc. report ranked BenU one of the top 10 colleges in Illinois for return on investment and in the top 20 percent nationally. Accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (hlcommission.org). For more information, contact (630) 829-6300, firstname.lastname@example.org or visit ben.edu.