Birthdays, Dragons, Changes


I finished proofreading my first-pass pages for The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart today, and – embarrassingly or not! – the truth is, I cried at the end.

I love this book. And seeing it laid out in its to-be-published form (in the same typeface as Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book, according to my lovely editor at Bloomsbury!) made me feel really emotional…especially as a big date is coming up for me.

My birthday is arriving later this week. It’s not a major, decade-birthday milestone – that’ll come next year! But birthdays always have a way of bringing back the last year in review.

I remember when I was about to turn thirty, almost ten years ago, I felt like such a failure. I’d just been diagnosed with M.E./CFS and had had to give up my day job…but since my first agent and I had just amicably parted ways, there was no sign of the writing career I’d always dreamed of to replace it. So I was out of work, unagented, just-diagnosed with a lifelong chronic illness, and even though I’d been desperate to have kids – I wanted so badly to be a mom! – that didn’t look like it was ever going to happen, either.

I felt rotten.

Then Patrick and I went to WisCon, my favorite f/sf con, and my 30th birthday happened on the same day as WisCon’s famous dessert salon (where everyone dresses up in fabulous clothes and eats desserts with their friends – perfect!). I sat at a table full of wonderful friends from around the world, surrounded by even more friends at the neighboring tables, talking about books and writing and life with people I loved and believed in, who somehow, miraculously, believed in me too – and partway through, I was handed a birthday card signed by all my friends. Then the whole WisCon dessert salon sang me happy birthday as I sat there with my beloved husband and wonderful friends, and I felt so loved and supported and shockingly happy despite everything.

Just over a year later I had my first baby after all – AND I sold my first three books before that baby was born. Life can shift so quickly.

Now here’s something I haven’t talked about publicly before, but it’s also true: I went for multiple years in my mid-thirties being absolutely terrified that I would never sell another book after that first trilogy. I really believed that those might be the only books I ever published under my own name. I wrote nine work-for-hire books under a pen name for a packager, I wrote my own new books in whatever time I could scavenge on the side, and I took deep, steadying breaths around my birthdays, as yet another year came and went without another book-sale of my own.

But then this past year… Well.

In this past year, since I turned 38, I sold three more books and I saw my first adult novel published. Yesterday, I got to read a beautiful review of Masks and Shadows in Book Reporter that said, among other things, “MASKS AND SHADOWS by Stephanie Burgis is one of the best historical fantasies to emerge so far this year.”

This morning, I woke up to a really lovely tweet from one reader who’d loved M&S, and this weekend I got an email from another reader who’d found an escape in M&S during a really difficult time.

This morning I hit “send” on my proofreading corrections to The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart. Then I clicked “refresh” on my inbox just in case the cover for Congress of Secrets had arrived yet. (It hadn’t! And it probably won’t for another few weeks. I’m just impatient, because I loved the cover for M&S so much, I can’t wait to see what they do for CoS!)

This weekend, I’ll be celebrating my birthday with Patrick and our kids, who have PLANS for the day.

Life can change so quickly, in ways I couldn’t have even imagined.

I’m feeling really, really lucky right now. And I can’t wait to see what the next year holds.


  1. Steph, this is so lovely and hope-full. It’s amazing how a situation can feel one way at the time, and only later do you realize you were on the cusp of a sea change. I can’t wait to see DWaCH in its final form (and I love that it and The Graveyard Book will share a font. <3 )

    • Stephanie Burgis

      Thank you so much, Rene! <3 And thank you so much for beta-reading The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart as I wrote it!

  2. Thank you for sharing this, and thank you for sticking with it and writing more books! When it feels like many others enjoy overnight success, it’s always a good reminder that those are rare — or perhaps even nonexistent. We all work hard, often for years without selling anything, and we experience those doubts and insecurities along the way. Like you said, things can change so quickly… but only if we’re still trying and doing our best. Happy early birthday and best wishes for both continued personal and professional happiness and success, in the coming year and beyond!

  3. You’re not the only one teary-eyed today. What a wonderful post, and incredibly appreciated. You speak to any of us who wonder and fret if we’ll ever make it on our own terms, regardless of the level of personal/professional struggle we’re going through. You’re such a warm, sharing person that we can’t help but root for you, and we know you’re cheering us on as well.

    Congrats on the new book. I’m SO excited to read it when it’s out! And Happy Birthday in advance – I hope the PLANS your boys are making take your breath away!

  4. What a beautiful post, Steph! Thank you for sharing your triumphs and your fears so bravely. I love reading you, here and in your books. *HUGS* and best-est birthday wishes!

  5. Caragh M. O'Brien

    Dear Stephanie,
    I’m so happy for you. After your perseverance all this time, it’s wonderful to be able to celebrate with you. Happy Birthday!

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