By Starrla Cray
WRIGHT COUNTY, MN Alleece (Miller) Balts was 17 when the idea for her young adult novel, “The Crowd,” wandered into her mind.
“I was working at the Cokato Public Library,” she recalled. “As countless books passed through my hands, I was disappointed in the lack of well-written, clean fiction available for young adults.”
One day, as Alleece was straightening shelves, she thought of a story about a prestigious academy and the students who live there. She wrote it down, but then put the project on hold as other priorities filled her days.
Alleece (daughter of Dale and Konnie Miller of Howard Lake) graduated from Dassel-Cokato High School in 2004, and went to college for business management and accounting. She then spent four years as a corporate accountant before becoming a stay-at-home mom.
Alleece never forgot the characters in her story, though. When her husband, Derek, who is an accounting manager in the Twin Cities, went back to school two nights a week, she used the time to revisit her old manuscript.
Six months later, the first draft of “The Crowd” was complete. Alleece said she wrote for the enjoyment of it, and might not have pursued publication if it weren’t for her husband’s encouragement.
“He read it and said, ‘This is really good. You need to do something with it,’” she recalled.
After another six months of editing, the manuscript was ready for publication. Alleece pursued self-publishing based on the advice of other authors, who said traditional publishing can be complicated and political.
“It’s very difficult to break in unless you have a personal connection,” she explained, adding that successful self-published books can sometimes lead to traditional publishing.
It appears that Alleece’s novel is already on its way to success, with 15 reviews on Amazon.com (all positive) since its release in January.
“It’s exciting to hear from people,” Alleece said. “It’s been really rewarding.”
“The Crowd” is book-one of a three-part series, and Alleece is aiming for the second book, called “The Journey,” to be published by the end of the year.
The trilogy’s storyline centers on a 17-year-old girl named Ella, who is accepted into a prestigious boarding school. Initially it seems like a dream come true, but there’s more to the school than meets the eye.
“This is something I would have wanted to read when I was that age; It was almost like I was writing to myself,” Alleece said, adding that the book is ideal for late middle school through college-aged students.
For Alleece, who is a mom to three children ages 4 and under, the most challenging part of being an author is making the time to write which usually ends up being during the children’s nap times or after they go to bed at night.
When “writer’s block” strikes, Alleece said she steps back and gives her brain a break.
“I’ll go on a walk, weed the flowers, fold a load of laundry, or focus on some other mindless task,” she noted. “It gives my mind a chance to wander freely, and some of my best plot ideas and twists have come to me when I wasn’t consciously thinking about writing.”
Alleece will be teaching three writing workshops Tuesday evenings from 6 to 8 p.m. this month at the Cokato Public Library. Events are free and open to all teens and adults. Funding is provided, in part, by Minnesota’s Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund.
• June 14 - This session will focus on general writing, including characters, setting, and showing versus telling.
• June 21 - Editing and its importance will be addressed in this session.
• June 28 - Participants will learn about the process of self-publishing and promotion.