clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Author Allyson Braithwaite Condie knows audience well

Author Allyson Braithwaite Condie knows her audience well. That's because the BYU graduate spent three years teaching teenagers — first in Utah Valley and then in upstate New York.Condie always wanted to be a writer, but as she grew older, it took a back seat to teaching high school. It wasn't until the Mormon woman quit teaching to raise her family that she felt like something was missing.Not that Condie minded being at home, but she missed interacting with high school students, and that's where the idea for writing a young adult book came from."For so long I had been reading so much in that genre because both I had been a young adult and was preparing to teach them and then teaching them," Condie said. "It just came really naturally to me because it was a group I had been around a lot."But enthusiasm and working with teens don't guarantee a publishing deal. And when Condie sent queries to national book agents, her first book was rejected across the board."Nobody wanted it," Condie said. "Not one person was interested."Perhaps, she thought, the book might be something that would appeal to a more specialized audience. It had a theme that lent itself very easily to an LDS market, and after revising and resubmitting it twice, Deseret Book accepted it, publishing "Yearbook" in September 2006.Fast-forward four years and Condie has found considerable success. In December, she signed a three-book deal with Dutton Children's Books, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers Group. The first book, a dystopian tentatively titled "Matched," is due out this winter.__IMAGE__On top of that, her fifth LDS-market title, "Being Sixteen," a book about sisters dealing with eating disorders, is now on bookshelves. And despite the hard subject "Being Sixteen" focuses on, it's a book Condie is very excited about.What do anorexia and bulimia have to do with Mormons and spirituality? Plenty, Condie said.Most people are aware of anorexia and bulimia on a very basic level, but Condie would like to think that her book might help raise awareness of the warning signs that could lead to those behaviors."Being Sixteen" will hopefully create "a sense of community of women uplifting one another," Condie said. "A feeling of looking out for one another as women in an LDS community of sisters or friends or teachers. And not just in the LDS community, but just in your community. Because a lot of times, it's not the parents who see something first. It's not the sister. It's somebody else."Condie had firsthand experience dealing with eating disorders while living in New York. Together with her husband, Scott, she lived in a sorority as a sort of house parent."There were a lot of really amazing girls who lived in that house," Condie said. "But the struggle with eating disorders was also very clear. ... I had definitely seen it when I was teaching, but actually living in the same house as people suffering with it was a different experience. And I think that brought it to the forefront."To make sure that her book was accurate, Condie sought information from the Center for Change, which offers dedicated acute inpatient, residential and after-care treatment for women and adolescent girls with anorexia or bulimia.She also enlisted the help of several women and girls with eating disorders who read and critiqued Condie's working manuscript and final book.One might think that such a book would be depressing rather than uplifting. Being in the head of someone with an eating disorder is such a hard place to be. And, Condie said, telling a story from that point of view has been done and done well. That's why she chose the outsider's perspective."I felt like that was going to be a more hopeful place to write from," Condie said. "It kind of started out as a book about a girl with an eating disorder and it became (a story about testimony). I felt the story about testimony was just as important, if not maybe more so, by the time I was finished."There really was no way to write "Being Sixteen" without a religious theme, Condie said. "Spiritual seeking or looking for enlightenment is something to fall back on or to have at your core. It's something that everyone is looking for. ... It wasn't at all a book that I wrote and then thought, 'I should add something spiritual.' That was always part of it."Beyond everything, Condie said that young adults are always first and foremost in her mind when writing a book. "I always have a group of young adult readers read it as well to make sure that things sound authentic. They are great about telling me what rings true and what doesn't."To purchase Allyson B. Condie's books, go to deseretbook.com.


E-mail: jharrison@desnews.com