Hey, what’s up, hello!
The Short Version: I’ve been writing stories since before I could spell, and after nearly losing my love for writing (and my sanity) in college, I realized it was my passion and have decided to pursue a Master’s Degree in Publishing and Writing in Boston, Massachusetts while I dig deeper into the publishing world.
The Long Version: My name is Amanda, and I’ve pretty much always been into writing. As a kid, I would rewrite the books my parents read aloud to me, even before I had really mastered how to spell most of the words. Once I did learn to spell, I started writing little newspapers and creating flyers and pamphlets about anything and everything with this super cool software called Print Master (click for video. I used a way older version, but same concept). I continued writing stories as well with the help of Storybook Weaver, an educational game from MECC that I was obsessed with.
By the time I was 7, I had discovered this thing called the internet, and with it a very cool website called Neopets.com (before it was purchased by Nickelodeon! and it all was still free). While everything about the site was pretty epic for 1999, my favorite place was the chat rooms, where I learned about this thing called roleplaying. My favorites were the Harry Potter themed ones. No surprise there! I learned so much about character development from reading people’s introductions that I soon spent hours working on a couple characters just so I would be ready to jump in when I logged on.
Over the years, this character-driven writing propelled me towards writing my own stories without the help of other people writing most of the characters. I saved these on mini floppy discs, and I unfortunately no longer own a computer that can read them.
In middle school, I enrolled in a novel writing class that changed my life. I had to come to class every week with things written and talk about my characters with everyone in the class. I am always intrigued by how people identify with their characters, whether they had only a few chapters written (like me), or were nearly finished with a 600-page manuscript (this one girl in the class had been writing for years and while I don’t remember most of it, I do remember it being amazing!). If you’d like to know more about those classes, we followed a book called Learn to Write the Novel Way.
When I started high school, everything became harder for me. Up until then, I had been home-schooled, so I had no trouble finding time to write, and no limit of things to write about. With high school came required readings and piles of homework, and I was effectively dragged out of my cocoon of imagination to face the ‘real world’. Not that I hadn’t been a part of it before, but now I rarely had time for daydreaming between classes, cross country, drama club, pep band, and yearbook committee. I always wrote during my Christmas and Summer breaks, but otherwise, I just didn’t have the time. It wasn’t until some six years later that I found my way back to really writing about the things I wanted to write about.
Halfway through college, I suddenly knew that Wildlife and Fisheries Science wasn’t for me. I know, I know, how did I go from writing to wildlife?! But my dad is a biologist and I enjoy science and nature, and I was under the (apparently mistaken) impression that my parents wouldn’t pay for me to major in English or History, so… yeah.
I needed to be doing something that spurred my imagination to new heights, and what I discovered was Communications. I double concentrated in Broadcasting and Public Relations. It was too late for me to minor in English, Marketing, or Production, so I just took whatever courses I could squeeze into my schedule and ran with it. I joined the campus radio station, I wrote something for the campus newspaper, I produced live TV broadcasts, I attended national conferences for Public Relations as well as Radio Broadcasting, and I filled notebooks with clippings taken out of anything from magazines or newspapers to flyers I was handed on the street. Anything that inspired me found its way into those notebooks. And whenever I could, I wrote.
In the summer before my 5th and final year of college, I created this site. I had been messing around with blogging for about 10 years, but I had never settled, never stuck to one long enough to let it develop itself into what it needed to become. After nearly three years under the title The Curio Street Blog, and the addition of a sister blog (Curio Street Reads) that ran just weekly book reviews, I realized a few things. First, I was driving myself insane. I couldn’t manage two sites! Second, I was putting significantly more effort into the reviews than anything else. This led me to my third conclusion (which, looking back at my life thus far was pretty obvious) – books and writing are my future.
The first action I needed to take was aligning my brand more with myself and my ideal audience. ‘Curio Street’ is supposed to mean ‘a street of interesting things’ – but no one knows that the cord curio means a rare, unusual, or intriguing object, so no one understood what the site was about. This meant a name change. After months of brainstorming, I finally settled on Highlights and Hot Chocolate. Simple and to the point, easy to understand, and versatile enough that I can still share things besides book reviews. Item #1, check!
Next, armed with my Bachelor’s Degree in Communication Studies, I forged ahead and applied to graduate school in Boston, Massachusettes. Now I’m preparing to start my Master’s Degree in Publishing and Writing at Emerson College this Fall (2017) and I could not be more excited about it! Item #2, CHECK!
Finally, I’m doing everything I can to give myself the best education and opportunities in the field of publishing. This means buying or checking out from the library anything I can find on publishing and looking into other websites that offer information on the industry. So far it’s a lot of new information, but I’m finding it all fascinating!
I don’t write this blog for the money (and so far there is none). I write for the discovery – to let out the stories that are inside of me in order to share what I’ve learned with those around me. Knowledge is power, and the only way to get knowledge is to share it. That being said, I would not be offended if anyone wanted to advertise their books on my site, or wanted to send me books for review. One, because I need to pay for graduate school somehow (though I would never advertise something I didn’t agree with!), and two because who doesn’t like free books? Send me an email with a blurb and I’ll let you know if I’m interested in reviewing your book! I may also offer an editing service in the future.
I look forward to sharing my journey with you, and I hope you share your perspectives and experiences in the comments, where I will gladly read every single one of them.
Feel free to send me an e-mail at amanda-at-highlightsandhotchocolate-dot-com, or find me on social media at Amanda_HHC on Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, and Pinterest. I look forward to hearing from you!