Former BC student announces debut novel

Tara Sheets
Tara Sheets / photo courtesy Tara Sheets

Tara Sheets, former Continuing Education student, wrote her debut novel “Don’t Call Me Cupcake” which will be released May 2018. The book won Sheets the Pacific Northwest Writers Association Literary Contest in 2015 and earned her the Golden Heart Award for best Paranormal Romance in 2016. Sheets received a three-book book deal with Kensington, a publishing house in New York City.

Sheets described her experience writing her book as “a lot of hard work. Lots of revising and re-writing, and keyboard head-banging. Some days I felt like I was playing Whack-a-Mole with all my plot holes. But here’s what I figured out: If you really love your story, then all the hard parts are worth it. Writing this book was such a great experience because I felt like I was just writing for me. I didn’t try to be brilliant or special or profound. I just wanted to write a fun book that would make me smile. The crazy part is that it worked.”

“Don’t Call Me Cupcake” is “a contemporary romance with light paranormal elements,” according to Sheets. The story takes place in a fictional island off the coast of Seattle. Centered around a woman with the magical power to bake spells into her cupcakes, her agent pitched the book to editors as “a cross between the movies ‘Practical Magic’ and ‘You’ve Got Mail.’”

“I plotted the story in a Bellevue College Continuing Education creative writing class taught by Anat Ben-Shaul,” said Sheets. After that, Sheets submitted her first few chapters to the Pacific Northwest Writers’ Association Literary Contest. After winning first place, her story captured the attention of an agent from Trident Media in New York City. This came at a perfect time for Sheets, as she “had just finished final revisions and was planning to send out query letters to agents that week.”

“I sent her my book, she read it overnight, and contacted me the next morning with an offer of representation,” Sheets said. “A short time later, we took the book out on submission and within two weeks, I received multiple offers.”

“I loved every creative writing class I took at Bellevue College,” said Sheets. “I would encourage anyone who is interested in writing to consider joining a class. The teachers are incredibly knowledgeable and it’s a great experience to be in an immersive environment with other people who, like you, are passionate about writing. Everything I learned there has helped me on my journey toward publication.”

To become a published author, Sheets said that it takes patience, which was difficult for her to realize. “I was so eager to write my books that I just wanted them to happen, already! But it’s really important to understand story structure and character arcs and how to string chapters together in a compelling way.” She also mentioned that researching the market to find the right publishing house and going to writing conferences will help the journey in finding a publisher. “The PNWA conference is a great place to meet other writers, editors, and agents in the industry. The more you learn, the better your chances are of getting your book out there,” said Sheets.

“Stay positive and don’t give up,” advised Sheets to aspiring writers. “Before I got a publishing contract, I used to think it was this unattainable thing that I probably would never achieve.” Some days, she says she still feels unsure of herself. “Self-doubt is a sure thing,” she said. “It’s always going to pop up, and that’s okay. Self-doubt never really goes away, but you just have to learn that it’s a natural part of the process. Acknowledge it. Say ‘hi’ to it. Then whack it on the head and get back to writing your amazing story. Just. Keep. Going.”

Her next books, as a part of her three-book deal, will be released October 2018 and February 2019. Currently, Sheets is working on her second book’s edits. “I’m still pinching myself. And smiling!” said Sheets. “I’m definitely smiling.”