Spokane author steps onto bookshelves with ‘Growing Up Gracie’

Gracie is an average Mormon girl, the fifth of six kids, growing up in Wyoming. She feels like there isn’t much that makes her unique or interesting, but as she grows up, she finds that she can still make a great life, just by being herself.

Author Maggie Fechner, a member of the Five Mile Prairie Ward in the Spokane North Stake, did the same when she began writing her first book.

Maggie Fechner of the Spokane North Stake is the author of a recently published book called “Growing Up Gracie.” Contributed Photo.

“My daughter Gracie was just a new baby and since I had quit working I was home alone with a lot of free time on my hands,” Fechner said. “I thought it would be fun to write a story for her to read when she was older. I had absolutely no thoughts or plans to get it published.”

Fechner, who has a bachelor of arts degree in Journalism, had plenty of experience writing for newspapers, but had put little thought into fiction. She wrote the story, put it on a shelf and forgot about it. Five years and two more children later, she came across the manuscript while reorganizing her papers.

“I read through it and was totally appalled – but I’m a writer, so I thought, ‘Let’s start rewriting and see what can be done with it,'” Fechner said.

After some major revisions, Fechner sent the manuscript for “Growing Up Gracie” to a few LDS publishers and it was picked up by Cedar Fort and published just this last November. It is considered to be a “young adult” book, but anyone who was experienced adolescence will be able to connect to Gracie as she figures out her relationships with friends, boys, and her beliefs.

Although Gracie is an “average” Mormon girl, she has her own unique traits. Yes, she does some embroidery work, but she also enjoys carpentry and offroading through the mud.

Many people assume, after meeting Fechner, that she and her main character are similar. The story did begin with a definite connection – Fechner’s love for her childhood home of Wyoming. Yet beyond the setting, Gracie’s life is not very similar to the one that Fechner experienced as a child. Still, as Fechner says, “You can’t really keep life separate from your writing.”

Her husband’s construction experience gave her a lot of the details for the book and Fechner did grow up with two best friends, which sometimes put her in the same place as Gracie – having to negotiate between two different personalities.

It is obvious that Fechner loves the practice of writing, as witnessed by her faithfulness in waking up at 5 a.m. to sit down at the keyboard, so she can work when the house is quiet. Beyond the act of writing, Fechner has learned good and bad about the other side of the coin – publishing. The excitement of opening her first box of books and seeing her name on the cover was a great moment.

The new author’s family is proud and supportive, especially her oldest daughter Gracie, because, as Fechner says, “How many 7-year-olds have a book named after them?!” Still, there is a lot of work that goes into publishing a book, and when ask if it is worth it, Fechner is quick to say that financially it is not.

“The LDS market in Spokane is not very big, so I’m still waiting for the moment when I go into a random bookstore and see my book on the shelf,” she said. “But I’m doing a lot of marketing work because after all the work of getting my book published, I don’t want it to just sit there. I want people to read it.”

Fechner has two upcoming book signings at The Brass Plates in Spokane Valley (this Saturday, Jan. 22) and Auntie’s Bookstore in downtown Spokane (Feb. 18).

Fechner is also working on a number of other writing projects. A sequel to “Growing Up Gracie” is in the works as is about one of the older sisters in the Fremont Family. She has just started revising another book which is intended more for a mainstream market and is considered a “family saga,” although Fechner admits with a laugh that she still finds all the different genre labels confusing. She herself doesn’t often read contemporary fiction but prefers historical fiction.

Will she ever attempt to write a historical fiction like the ones she enjoys? Fechner hopes so, but knows that it will involved a lot more in-depth research than her busy family life will allow at this point. Her family saga novel has a little of that flavor, so she hopes it will help her develop that skill even more. Because she knows that continuous writing will only improve a writer, that is exactly her advice to anyone trying to get published – write more!

“I wish I had written a lot more fiction before I sent anything off to be published,” she said. “I think “Growing Up Gracie” is a wonderful start, but I also hope to get better as I go along. Writers should never think that the first thing they write is their best work.”

Fechner admits not every review of the book has been completely complimentary but she always looks to see if any comments are constructive criticism for becoming a better author. For someone who admits she enjoys books that don’t always have happy endings, Fechner herself is pretty optimistic about her future.

“I’m so blessed that this happened and it’s been a really neat journey,” she said. “I’m working to make this book the first step in a nice career as an author.”

Growing Up Gracie Book Signings:

Saturday Jan. 22 – 2, 4 p.m. at The Brass Plate LDS Bookstore, 15704 E. Sprague in Spokane Valley

Friday, Feb. 18, 7 p.m. @ Auntie’s Bookstore, 402 W. Main in downtown Spokane

“Growing Up Gracie” can be purchased at the following places: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Borders, Brass Plates, Cedar Fort, Deseret Book.

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