York College Alumna Scores Two-Book Publishing Deal with Berkley
Lauren Connolly ’13, a talented novelist with an emerging voice in the romance genre, recently turned in the first draft of her debut book for renowned publisher Berkley, a division of Penguin Publishing Group.
For romance writer Lauren Connolly, the journey from penning stories in her college dorm room to signing a two-book deal with a prestigious publishing house has been wrapped in passion, perseverance, and the invaluable preparation she received at York College of Pennsylvania.
Connolly, originally from Delaware, graduated in 2013 after majoring in Professional Writing and minoring in Creative Writing. Her innate love of reading put her on the path to authorship. She had been an avid reader, often lost in the pages of a book during high school classes. But it wasn't until her first year at another college, as an English major, that she realized she could pursue a career in writing.
“I was taking English classes in that first year of college and it clicked for me that authoring was a career that could be pursued, but not necessarily with an English degree,” Connolly says.
She transferred to York College in her sophomore year and enrolled as a Professional Writing major.
Finding her muse at York College
York College played a quintessential role in molding Connolly as a writer. Not only did it expose her to diverse writing styles but it pushed her boundaries, encouraging her to write extensively and experiment with various genres. The supportive environment and rigorous coursework helped demystify the world of professional authorship.
"I always knew that I wanted to tell stories, but I realized that I wanted to do it through writing,” she says.
One of Connolly’s most cherished memories from York College was participating in the National Novel Writing Month challenge during a novel-writing class. Her task was to write 50,000 words in 30 days, a feat that taught her the discipline, resilience, and dedication required in the world of writing.
Although she began her writing journey with fan fiction in high school, it was while working at a bookstore that Connolly fell in love with romance novels. Breaking with the stigma attached to the genre, she realized that romance stories were not mere frivolous tales but had depth, character development, and a challenging structure. With the romance genre, every story must culminate in a happy ending, and for Connolly, crafting that journey became her passion.
"Once I started with writing romance, it really just kind of clicked for me. Now I find it really fun to write in that genre,” she says. “Within any genre, you’ve got a puzzle to solve. In romance, you have to have a ‘happily ever after.’ I like the process of working toward that end."
From self-publishing to Berkley
At York College, Connolly achieved more than just honing her writing skills. Her professors helped instill in her a work ethic and the discipline essential for professional success. Their guidance, coupled with constructive criticism from peers, enabled her to view her work through a critical lens, refine her craft, and develop resilience.
In 2018, Connolly's career began to take off when she self-published her first book. Her commitment to her craft, coupled with a Twitter pitching event with small-press publishers, eventually helped her connect with an agent. This paved the way for collaboration with major publishing houses.
Connolly landed a two-book deal with Berkley, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, with the first book to be published next year. She continues to self-publish and deal with small-press publishers for some of her work. She self-published a novel in July and has a small-press novel ready for release in September.
Advice to aspiring writers
For those looking to embark on a similar journey, Connolly emphasizes the importance of seeking feedback and taking business courses. Being an author is not just about storytelling; it's about managing an “author business,” she says. A career as an author requires patience, persistence, and continuous learning, she adds. For Connolly, each day includes a regimen of morning social media and marketing followed by an afternoon of focused writing in a coffee shop, with a goal of producing 3,000 words per day.
Being able to support herself financially as a full-time writer has been a dream come true for Connolly. She encourages York College students aspiring to be authors to put in the work, write every day, and be open to plenty of critiques.
“There’s times I’ll write 3,000 words and realize it’s all bad, but it’s there, and so it’s something I can work on and tweak,” she says. “Getting comfortable with writing something bad is how you get the words out there.”