On this day, three years ago, I signed my first book deal.

It was the deal that gave me (and the world) Beasts Made of Night and Crown of Thunder. Around the time I officially became financially obligated to write Taj’s story, I was sleeping on a twin-sized bed in a room that could barely fit it. I was in the middle of a year of living out of a suitcase, doing civil rights work I loved, but for free in a very unkind city. I was hungry, in every sense of the word. On fire with it. As it drove me, pushed me, it also ate away at me. By the time I put pen to the dotted line, to mix metaphors, I’d been at sea for longer than I thought possible. The deal was a life raft but also (and I couldn’t forget this) the realization of a dream. A dream I’d nurtured and believed in, whose outcome I’d accepted as fact, for at least half of my conscious life until that point. For fifteen years, I’d treated the eventual fact of publication the way I’d treated gravity, or aging. From a certain distance, it begins to look like zealotry.

But then it happened. When there was paper I could hold—signed paper!—and not merely spoken agreements or shared understandings or promises, it became real. It happened.

This anniversary always tends to sneak up on me. I was in Los Angeles for a festival during the two-year anniversary, making more memories. And tonight, I’m neck-deep in the business of storytelling. I call them assignments, but they’re more fun than that.

As corny as it sounds, dreams sometimes do come true.

In the hallway just outside my agent’s office. I’m pretty sure he took the picture.

In the hallway just outside my agent’s office. I’m pretty sure he took the picture.

Tochi Onyebuchilife, writing